The U.S. Senate failed Monday to pass measures to avert a partial government shutdown and prevent a federal default at the start of a crucial legislative week that is highlighting the challenges facing the sharply divided Congress.
Republican lawmakers voted to oppose the bills Monday evening, forcing Democrats to look for other ways to keep the government open beyond Thursday and to raise the debt ceiling before the government is expected to default on its loans sometime in late October or early November.
The near party-line vote failed 48-50. Democrats narrowly control both Houses of Congress, but under Senate rules, 60 out of 100 votes are needed to pass most legislation in that chamber.
Republicans have said they want Democrats to lift the debt limit on their own, saying they do not support the Democrats’ multitrillion-dollar spending plans.
“We are not willing to help Democrats raise the debt ceiling while they write a reckless taxing and spending spree of historic proportions behind closed doors,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Monday.
Democrats say much of the nation’s debt was incurred during the Trump administration. Historically, both parties have voted to raise the limit to prevent the United States from defaulting on its debts.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that the Republican action is “one of the most reckless and irresponsible votes I have seen take place in the Senate” and that “the Republican Party has solidified itself as the party of default.”
McConnell said Republicans would support a bill funding the day-to-day operations of the government, which runs out of money after Thursday. Democrats, however, do not want to separate the government funding measure from the debt limit bill.
A White House statement late Monday said President Joe Biden spoke with Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about “the work being done by Democrats to avoid a breach of the United States’ full faith and credit in the face of Republican obstruction and irresponsibility — GOP actions that show a lack of concern about our economic recovery.”
In addition to the impasse on those measures, Congress is also at odds over a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill as well as a $3.5 trillion Democratic social spending and climate change bill.
The House of Representatives began debate Monday on the infrastructure bill ahead of a planned vote Thursday on the measure, which is a major part of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the dates in a letter to Democratic lawmakers Sunday. In television interviews, she expressed confidence the bill would pass.
“Let me just say that we’re going to pass the bill this week,” Pelosi said on ABC’s This Week.
The Senate approved the infrastructure plan in a vote last month that saw 19 Republicans join all 50 members of the Democratic caucus.
Progressive Democrats in the House, however, have tied the infrastructure bill to the larger $3.5 trillion social spending bill, which faces more opposition, including from some Senate Democrats who say they will not support that much spending.
House progressives say they won’t vote for the infrastructure bill unless there is progress on the social spending bill, while Democratic moderates say they may not vote on the larger spending bill until the infrastructure bill passes.
Pelosi told ABC’s This Week that the negotiations would certainly result in a lower price tag for the social spending bill, calling such a development “self-evident.”
The $3.5 trillion proposal includes plans to provide universal prekindergarten instruction, free community college classes, expanded health care for older Americans, child care funding and money to combat the effects of climate change. It would also attempt to change immigration law and lower prescription drug prices.
The infrastructure spending, with nearly half of it in new government funding, would repair aging roads and bridges and expand broadband, pay for replacement of dangerous drinking-water systems that use lead pipes, add new sewer infrastructure, expand passenger rail and transit systems, and improve airports.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.