Congress moves to avert partial government shutdown

Congress is moving to avert one crisis while putting off another with the Senate poised to approve legislation that would fund the federal government into early December.

The House is expected to approve the measure following the Senate vote Thursday, preventing a partial government shutdown when the new fiscal year begins Friday.

Democrats were forced to remove a suspension of the federal government’s borrowing limit from the bill at the insistence of Republicans. If the debt limit isn’t raised by Oct. 18, the country would likely face a financial crisis and economic recession, says Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Republicans say Democrats have the votes to raise the debt ceiling on their own, and Republican leader Mitch McConnell is insisting that they do so.

But the most immediate priority facing Congress is to keep the government running once the current fiscal year ends at midnight Thursday. The bill’s expected approval will buy lawmakers more time to craft the spending bills that will fund federal agencies and the programs they administer.

Meanwhile, Democrats are struggling over how to get President Joe Biden’s top domestic priorities over the finish line. Those include a bipartisan infrastructure bill that contains $550 billion in new spending for roads, bridges, broadband and other priorities, as well as a $3.5 trillion slate of social, health and environmental programs.

“With so many critical issues to address, the last thing the American people need right now is a government shutdown,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Schumer said the stopgap spending legislation will also provide aid for those reeling from Hurricane Ida and other natural disasters as well as funding to support Afghanistan evacuees from the 20-year war between the U.S. and the Taliban.

Action in the final hours to avoid a partial government shutdown has become almost routine, with lawmakers usually able to fashion a compromise. The funding bill was slowed this time by disagreement over allowing the government to take on more debt so that it could continue to meet its financial obligations. Currently the borrowing cap is set at $28.4 trillion.

The U.S. has never defaulted on its debts in the modern era, and historically both parties have voted to raise the limit. Democrats joined the Republican Senate majority in doing so three times during Donald Trump’s presidency. This time Democrats wanted to take care of both priorities in one bill, but Senate Republicans blocked that effort Monday.

Raising or suspending the debt limit allows the federal government to pay obligations already incurred. It does not authorize new spending. McConnell has argued that Democrats should pass a debt limit extension with the same budgetary tools they are using to try to pass a $3.5 trillion effort to expand social safety net programs and tackle climate change.

“There is no tradition of doing this on a bipartisan basis. Sometimes we have and sometimes we haven’t,” McConnell told reporters about past debt ceiling increases.

House Democrats complained about the steps they were being forced to take as they approved a standalone bill late Wednesday that would suspend the debt ceiling until December 2022. That bill now heads to the Senate, where it is almost certain to be blocked by a Republican filibuster.

“You are more interested in punishing Democrats than preserving our credit and that is something I’m having a real tough time getting my head around,” House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., told Republicans. “The idea of not paying bills just because we don’t like (Biden’s) policies is the wrong way to go.”

But Republicans were undaunted. They argued that Democrats have chosen to ram through their political priorities on their own, and thus are responsible for raising the debt limit on their own.

“So long as the Democratic majority continues to insist on spending money hand over fist, Republicans will refuse to help them lift the debt ceiling,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.

McGovern said Republicans ballooned the debt under Trump and now are washing their hands of the consequences.

“Republicans have now rediscovered the issue of the debt,” McGovern said. “Where the hell were you the last four years?”

The Treasury has taken steps to preserve cash, but once it runs out, it will be forced to rely on incoming revenue to pay its obligations. That would likely mean delays in payments to Social Security recipients, veterans and government workers, including military personnel. The Bipartisan Policy Center, a think tank, projects that the federal government would be unable to meet about 40% of payments due in the several weeks that follow.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

9 thoughts on “Congress moves to avert partial government shutdown

  1. This article is basically a Democratic talking point filled with smoke and mirrors. We wouldn’t need to increase the debt ceiling if Democrats hadn’t spent 6.3 trillion so far this year! Does this author mention that the 3.5 trillion spending package that is trying to be pushed through now contains FREE community college for illegals? OR 3 billion to plant trees for tree equity? OR 25 million for “gender issues”. Free childcare, free pre-K, $107 billion for “lawful permanent status for qualified immigrants.” Yet the Democrats are only ear marking 18 billion to Veterans. WAKE UP PEOPLE! Everyone should be frightened for our country as we are imploding into socialism.

    1. This comment is basically a Trumpist misdirection filled with smoke and mirrors. We wouldn’t need to increase the debt ceiling if Trump hadn’t cut taxes without cutting spending!

  2. I wish this would delve into more of the reasons that each side is blaming the other for the current situation. Since the ceiling seems to be ignored each and every time get rid of it. It’s not helping to hold down spending. I’m a fiscal conservative so I don’t believe in this rampant drive to socialism, but Republicans have their faults as well and I don’t trust them either. I really feel like the rich will take care of the rich no mater who’s in charge so I don’t for a second buy the argument that taxes will be raised on them. It’s a matter of who’s getting the benefits at the time for supporting the winning party. If your in the middle if you can call it that anymore, you definitely already feel the pinch of higher groceries and gas prices. This government is out of control and trying to do everything it possibly can before it loses in the midterms.

    1. As a fellow fiscal conservative, Republicans lost me long ago with their continued belief in “Trickle down economics” to justify every tax cut, while only caring about the deficit when a Democrat is president.

      Trickle down flat doesn’t work, there are multiple studies pointing this out. What happened with the Trump tax cut? The majority of it was spent on stock buybacks and put into rich people’s portfolios. Rich people don’t get rich giving money away.

      Republicans had all the levers of government from 2017-2019 and blew up the deficit with it. But no one calls them on that, because they have people snowed that they care about the deficit and that Democrats are socialists who just want to give money away to “those people”. As if what Democrats want in any way shape or form “socialism” like you see in Venezuela.

      Sure, Republicans profess “freedom”. You should have the freedom to get hit with a medical crisis not of your making that leaves you bankrupt from medical bills. You should be free to breath polluted air while the climate gets warmer every year so a power company doesn’t have to spend money switch to cleaner energy sources. Big business should be free to sell you food that’s not been inspected and produced under atrocious conditions because they make more money that way.

      Look, if you want to get real about the deficit, the government is going to have to BOTH raise revenue AND cut spending. Last time I checked, neither party is checking either of those boxes. So I would advise looking at other factors when choosing who to vote for.

      Here’s one – which one actually believes in democracy? The idea that all Americans have the right to vote, and all those votes should count?

      Maybe don’t vote for a party where influential party officials spend their time figuring out how to throw an election that their side lost. Is it an accident that the last two acrimonious elections involve the Republicans doing the dirty work?

      At least in 2000 Republicans just sent a bunch of lawyers storming a room in Florida to stop counting votes. In 2021 they sent a bunch of people into Congress. Wonder that they’ll do next time with the next election they lose.

      Maybe don’t vote for the side that is ramming a bunch of voting restrictions through based on the 100% fake rantings of Donald Trump, who has a reminder complained about the 2016 election being rigged before it took place … and he won that election! Then launched an investigation into that election, found absolutely nothing … then was still allowed to claim that the 2020 election was rigged.

      Maybe don’t vote for the side that justifies all this behavior because “those people” aren’t “real Americans” and that Republicans are your only hope for “saving this country”. By this, they mean saving the country from anyone who isn’t a white straight American male. Sure, they forget most of their ancestors were once called “those people” and treating them poorly was justified to “save America”, but they don’t remember that. And besides, Democrats are socialists! We have to save the country!

      (If your ancestors were hated by the Klan and you are voting Republican, you should re-study history.)

      I’m a conservative without a party. I don’t enjoy voting Democrat right now, but until the Republican Party is cleansed of the anti-democratic forces that have infiltrated it, a vote for a Republican is a vote to destroy America.

      Put another way, keep voting Republican and watch as the conditions ripen for real socialism. Those voting restrictions won’t work forever.

  3. Quote: I’m a conservative without a party. I don’t enjoy voting Democrat right now, but until the Republican Party is cleansed of the anti-democratic forces that have infiltrated it, a vote for a Republican is a vote to destroy America.

    Give me a break, Joe B. Judging from your rant(s), you’re hardly a conservative, with or without a party.

    That said, I’ll bet you’ll find this to your liking. I’ve been reading Prioleau (pronounced PRAY-low) Alexander for some time, but he knocked it out of the park with this column; in my opinion, his best ever:

    1. Todd Young would really like how he started the article, Bob.

      To the gist of the article, if you are truly disgusted by government corruption, I have no idea how you made it through the Trump administration. Trump didn’t drain the swamp whatsoever, he just made sure that he and his family and cronies were at the head of the line. And they’re still at it today, encouraging everyone to give them money and not the Republican Party. Trump’s got a better deal than some of those TV evangelists these days. This person would have credibility if he started out by stating, hey, the Republican Party is no better than the Democrats.

      Yes, I am a conservative. I like Republicans like Lugar and Daniels and Holcomb. You know, the ones the radical Trumpublicans proclaim are RINO’s while proclaiming they are the only true conservatives. Ronald Reagan would be called a RINO in today’s Republican Party while Ike would be called a socialist.

      Time was political parties had diversity of thought. Look at the Democrats, so diverse they can’t get anything done.

      What is today’s Republican Party? It’s a Donald Trump personality cult. If you aren’t sufficiently loyal, you’re dead to him and must be purged.

      Look at Mike Pence. Five years of bending the knee to Donald Trump, refusing to say a bad thing and taking endless humiliation, and what did it get him? A mob trying to hang him for refusing to go along with a lawyer’s extraconstitutional plan to subvert the counting of electoral ballots. Spare me all the whining about all the things Obama did that he didn’t have the power to do, what Republicans wanted Pence to do on January 6th takes the cake.

      And how loyal must one be in today’s Republican Party? Pence’s own brother sided with Trump, for pete’s sake. If there’s any Republican who’d speak up about January 6th, you’d think it would be Greg Pence, right? Because a mob showed up and built a gallows and was looking for his own sibling. Nope, Greg Pence stayed silent and stuck with Trump because party loyalty was more important than standing with his own blood family. A sad state of affairs indeed. To be a proud Republican nowadays is to look at the China or Hungary or Russia and say to yourself, this is what I want America to become.

  4. Yawn….you’ve got one word wrong in your closing sentence, Joe…the word Republican should be Democrat, regardless of what you think about Donald Trump. Quit reading The New York Times and The Washington Post.

    1. I don’t subscribe to either, but I hold them in higher regard than the Charleston Mercury.

      Get back to me when Rachel Maddow gets paid to go to a socialist country, ala the recent paid puff piece that Tucker did that made Hungary seem oh so lovely. Remind me why Republicans seem to like authoritarians like Orban and Putin so much?

{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining
{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining Article limit resets on
{{ count_down }}