Updated Dec 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Congressional leaders clinch support for crucial defense bill, debt limit votes

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is seen passing reporters on Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer passes waiting reporters on Tuesday. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Congress has found a shortcut to pass its annual defense funding bill and raise the debt limit.

Driving the news: The House voted Tuesday night on two major bills — one creating a one-time, fast-track process for the Senate to raise the debt ceiling with just 51 votes, and another passing its annual defense bill.

  • These are two huge pieces of legislation now expected to pass with ease, and they should face little pushback once they reach the Senate.
  • It's also a huge victory for congressional leaders, given most in the Capitol expected the process to be brutal and messy.

Details: On Tuesday, the House passed a package that would delay Medicare sequestration cuts. Tucked into the bill is a one-time provision allowing the Senate to raise the debt limit with only a simple majority vote.

  • This measure, set to pass in the House, needs 60 votes to pass in the Senate.
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is confident at least 10 Republicans will vote for the expedited process (more on that here).
  • The measure requires that Democrats specify the dollar amount by which they want to raise the limit, and the expedited procedure would expire after Jan. 16, 2022.
  • The Senate is expected to take up the process bill later this week. If Republicans stay in line, Democrats could vote on raising the debt limit this weekend or early next week.

The House also passed the National Defense Authorization Act.

  • Leadership aides tell Axios this vote should be “locked in” for both chambers, given Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees negotiated and signed off on the compromise legislation.
  • Unlike the typical amendment process for passing the NDAA, senior Senate aides said there will be no amendment votes this time.
  • This decision comes after Senate leaders failed to reach an agreement on amendment votes last week, which followed Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) refusing to support the package without a vote on his Uighur forced labor bill.

Editor's note: This article has been corrected to show that Sen. Mitch McConnell is the Senate minority leader, not the majority leader. It has also been updated to reflect the House passing both bills on Tuesday night.

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