WASHINGTON (AP) — To stave off a U.S. default, the Senate late Thursday gave final approval to one Debt ceiling and budget cut packageinto the night to finish work on the bipartisan agreement and send it to President Joe Biden’s desk for it to go into effect before the ever-approaching deadline.
Neither Republicans nor Democrats are completely satisfied with the compromise package negotiated between Biden and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy. But the result after weeks of hard-fought budget negotiations has put the risky issue of the debt ceiling on hold turn the US and world economy upside down until 2025 after the next presidential election.
The Senate’s approval of a bipartisan vote (63 to 36) mirrored the previous day’s House of Representatives’ overwhelming record of relying on the center of both parties to push through the Biden-McCarthy package.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said passing the bill means “America can breathe easy.”
He said: “We avoid a default.”
Swift action was essential if Washington hoped to meet Deadline next Monday, as the Treasury Department declared that the US will run out of cash to pay its bills and risk a devastating default. Raising the country’s debt ceiling, now at $31.4 trillion, would ensure the Treasury Department could borrow to pay off US debt already incurred.
In the end, the debt ceiling showdown was a familiar, uphill struggle in Congress, a struggle McCarthy embraced and pushed by a far-right Republican majority in the House of Representatives, confronting the Democratic president with a new era of divided government in Washington.
Rejecting a once-routine vote that would allow the country’s debt ceiling to be lifted without concessions, McCarthy brought Biden’s White House to the negotiating table to reach a deal that would force spending cuts to curb the country’s deficits.
In total, the 99-page bill limits spending for the next two years, suspends debt ceiling until January 2025 and changes some policies, including introducing new ones Job Requirements for Older Americans Receiving Food Aid And green light for a natural gas pipeline in the Appalachia that many Democrats are against.
It increases defense and veterans appropriations and removes cuts new money for Internal Revenue Service agents and rejects Biden’s call to roll back Trump-era tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy to help cover the country’s deficits. It provides for automatic 1% cuts if Congress doesn’t approve its annual spending bills.
After the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the package late Wednesday, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell signaled that he too would not waste time making sure it became law.
Commenting on the budget cuts, McConnell said Thursday, “The Senate has an opportunity to implement this important advance.”
Several senators remained largely on the sidelines throughout much of the Biden-McCarthy negotiations, insisting on debating their ideas for reshaping the package. But making any changes at this point would almost certainly wreck the compromise, and none of them were adopted.
Instead, the senators dragged themselves through the voting sessions late into the night, rejecting the various amendments but making their preferences clear. Conservative Republican senators wanted to include more spending cuts, while Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia sought to have the Mountain Valley Pipeline approved.
The energy pipeline is important to Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va., and he defended his state’s development, saying the country could not function without the power of gas, coal, wind and all available energy sources.
However, Kaine offered an amendment to remove the pipeline from the package, arguing it would not be fair for Congress to embark on a controversial project that he believes would also sweep through his state and siphon off land in the Appalachia which has been in the family for generations.
Defense activists led by South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham lamented that while the deal boosted military spending, it was not enough to keep up with inflation — especially as they eye additional spending that will drive it Summer needed to support Ukraine in fighting the war led by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Putin’s invasion is a defining moment of the 21st century,” Graham argued in the Senate. “What the House of Representatives has done is wrong.”
They secured an agreement from Schumer, which he read on the spot, saying the debt ceiling agreement “does nothing” to limit the Senate’s ability to fund other emergency national security funds, including Ukraine, or for disaster relief and other issues of national importance.
For weeks, negotiators worked late into the night to negotiate the deal with the White House, and McCarthy had worked for days to rally support among skeptics.
Tensions had boiled over in the House of Representatives the night before when far-right Republicans rejected the deal. Conservatives ominously warned of a possible attempt to oust McCarthy on the matter.
But Biden and McCarthy formed a bipartisan coalition, with Democrats securing the passage by a strong 314-117 vote. A total of 71 Republicans in the House of Representatives broke with McCarthy and rejected the deal.
“We did damn well,” McCarthy, R-Calif., said afterwards.
As for the dissatisfaction of the Republicans who said that Spending restrictions did not go far enoughMcCarthy said it was just a “first step.”
The White House immediately turned its attention to the Senate, whose top staff called individual senators.
Democrats, too, have had grievances, criticizing the new job requirements for older Americans ages 50 to 54 in the food aid program, changes to the landmark National Environmental Policy Act, and the approval of the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline natural gas project, which they say isn’t helping fight the climate change.
The bipartisan Congressional Budget Office said the spending restraints included in the package would cut deficits by $1.5 trillion over the decade, a top goal for Republicans trying to rein in the debt burden.
However, to a surprise that made Republican support difficult, the CBO said it wanted to push it through Job Requirements for Older Americans Receiving Food Stamps would result in an increase in spending of $2.1 billion over the period. That’s because the final agreement will exempt war veterans and the homeless and increase the number of food stamps by 78,000 people a month, the CBO said.
AP White House Correspondent Zeke Miller contributed to this report.