Oct 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Senate passes temporary debt ceiling deal

Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is seen speaking to reporters on Thursday.
Reporters speak with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer before he announced a debt deal on Thursday. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Senate voted 50-48 on Thursday night, passing an agreement to raise the federal debt limit by $480 billion through Dec. 3. The bill now goes to the House, where there is a clear Democratic majority.

Why it matters: The deal, struck early Thursday by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), would avert the threat of the U.S. defaulting on its debt as of Oct. 18. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had warned that unprecedented move could trigger a recession and have global ramifications.

  • Republican Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) — a mix of moderates, retirees and leadership — joined McConnell in helping reach the 60-vote threshold to invoke cloture and move the Senate toward a floor vote. Cloture passed 61-38.
  • Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who is not running for re-election, didn't vote.

Schumer, after the vote, announced: "Republicans played a dangerous and risky partisan game, and I am glad that their brinksmanship did not work."

Between the lines: Multiple Senate Republicans were so frustrated by the compromise McConnell struck that they not only refused to support the vote but also threatened to prevent it from happening via a simple majority.

  • That left McConnell and his team scrambling today, hunting for at least 10 members to help push the deal past the 60-vote threshold.
  • Senate Republicans met for 90 minutes Thursday evening, during which they aired their concerns with McConnell’s approach.

While the bill will avoid a pending calamity, the Senate will have to address this fiscal cliff again come December — a month when lawmakers also face several other important deadlines, including funding the government.

  • The $480 billion is what Yellen said was needed to support government spending to Dec. 3, after which the country again faces the risk of default.

Between the lines: Politically, this was a big moment for both Senate leaders.

  • McConnell, who refused for months to budge over his insistence that Democrats suspend the debt limit through the budget reconciliation process, blinked.
  • Nonetheless, Schumer also accepted a temporary solution rather than a long-term one.
  • The result: Members of both parties are frustrated, and many are already complaining about what this means for December.
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