Democrats tie government funding to debt bill, GOP digs in

ap photo In this Sept. 8 file photo, speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., meets with reporters to discuss President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda including passing a bipartisan infrastructure bill and pushing through a Democrats-only expansion of the social safety net, the at the Capitol in Washington.

WASHINGTON — Democratic congressional leaders backed by the White House announced Monday they would push ahead with a vote to fund the government and suspend the debt limit, all but daring Republicans who say they will vote against it despite the risk of a fiscal crisis.

Congress is rushing headlong into an all-too-familiar stalemate: The federal government faces a shutdown if funding stops at the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30. At the same time, the U.S. risks defaulting on its accumulated debt load if the borrowing limits are not waived or adjusted.

All this while Democratic lawmakers are laboring to shoulder President Joe Biden’s massive $3.5 trillion “build back better” agenda through the House and Senate with stark opposition from Republicans.

“The American people expect our Republican colleagues to live up to their responsibilities and make good on the debts they proudly helped incur,” wrote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer in a joint statement.

From the White House, the president backed the congressional leaders’ plan to hold the votes.

“This is a bipartisan responsibility, just as it was under my predecessor,” Biden said in a tweet. “Blocking it would be inexcusable.”

The magnitude of the challenges ahead and the speed required to accomplish the job are like nothing Congress has faced in recent memory, situating Biden’s entire domestic agenda and the political fate of his Democratic party at a crucial moment.

As Democrats charge ahead, the Republicans as the minority party in Congress hoping to regain control in the next election in 2022 plan to sit back, watching and waiting to see if Biden and his allies can succeed against the odds — or spectacularly fail.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said he’s not about to help pay off past debts when Biden is about to pile on more with a “reckless” tax and spending package.

“Since Democrats decided to go it alone, they will not get Senate Republicans’ help with raising the debt limit. I’ve explained this clearly and consistently for over two months,” McConnell said Monday on the Senate floor.

The vote this week on funding to keep the government running past Sept. 30 and allow more borrowing will force the political stalemate into the open.

The Treasury Department warned that it will soon run out of cash-on-hand, and have to rely on incoming receipts to pay its obligations, now at $28.4 trillion. That could force the Treasury to delay or miss payments, a devastating situation.

“Doing so would likely precipitate a historic financial crisis,” wrote Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in the Wall Street Journal.


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