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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House Democrats on Wednesday passed a bill, 219-212, to suspend the debt limit through December 2022, sending it to the Senate, where it is expected to fail.

Why it matters: Democrats are trying to exhaust all options in order to pass the debt limit on the floor without forcing it to go through the partisan budget reconciliation process, but Republicans continue to obstruct that effort.

  • The vote comes shortly after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announced the government will default on its debt on Oct. 18 if Congress doesn’t act.
  • Default would lead to potentially catastrophic consequences for the economy.

What's next: The bill is now on its way to the Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) will ask for it to be passed with a simple majority vote.

  • However, several GOP senators have already vowed to object to that process.
  • It only takes one objection to force the filibuster, triggering the 60-vote threshold. Then the bill will fail.

Between the lines: Republicans’ repeated insistence on rejecting any attempt to help suspend the debt limit leaves virtually no other option for Democrats than to deal with it through the partisan reconciliation process.

  • Democratic aides tell Axios if they ultimately go that course, the most likely route is Democrats try to pass the measure through a reconciliation package that is separate from the larger, $3.5 trillion social spending package they are also doing via reconciliation.
  • Schumer could also attempt to work out a deal with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), but that seems unlikely at this stage. McConnell has so far insisted he plans to force Democrats to use reconciliation.

Yes, but: Schumer remains adamant that using the reconciliation process to suspend or raise the debt ceiling is a nonstarter.

  • Speaking on the floor Wednesday morning, Schumer said: "This body cannot and will not go through a drawn-out, unpredictable process sought by the minority leader. It risks the full faith and credit of the U.S."
  • Schumer then laid out his calculation for what he anticipates will happen: "As default gets closer and closer to becoming a reality, our Republican colleagues will be forced to ask themselves how long they are going to continue playing political games while the economic stability of our country is at risk."

Go deeper

The rickety state of climate legislation

Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Getty Images photos: Rudy Sulgan and Anton Petrus

The last 24 hours have somehow been confusing and clarifying about the state of major climate legislation at the same time.

Catch up fast: Last night House Democratic leaders, facing a revolt from progressives, put off a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure package for now.

Oct 25, 2021 - Axios Twin Cities

Deadlock in Minnesota Legislature delays frontline worker "hero pay"

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

We've reached the last week in October and Minnesota lawmakers remain locked in a stalemate over what was supposed to be a September special session on pandemic worker bonuses and other issues.

State of play: After months of public hearings and behind-the-scenes talks, there's still no agreement on how to distribute the $250 million in federal funding set aside for frontline workers.

  • A move last week to kick the impasse to the full Legislature for votes on competing plans failed.

The startup that wants to disrupt big internet providers

Maura Losch/Axios

A new startup backed by funding from AOL founder Steve Case and Laurene Powell Jobs wants to break up broadband monopolies across the country.

Why it matters: Internet access has been crucial during the pandemic, but it's not ubiquitous, and it can be both slow and unaffordable in swaths of the country.