Senate greenlights debt ceiling bill as Biden touts "big win"
Washington DC - The Senate voted to suspend the federal debt limit Thursday, capping weeks of fraught negotiations to eliminate the threat of a disastrous credit default just four days ahead of the deadline set by the Treasury.
Economists had warned the country could run out of money to pay its bills by Monday -- leaving almost no room for delays in enacting the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which extends the government's borrowing authority through 2024 while trimming federal spending.
Hammered out between Democratic President Joe Biden and the Republicans, the measure passed the Senate with a comfortable majority of 63 votes to 36 a day after it had sailed through the House of Representatives.
"No one gets everything they want in a negotiation, but make no mistake: this bipartisan agreement is a big win for our economy and the American people," Biden said in a statement posted to social media.
He said he would sign the bill "as soon as possible" and address the nation Friday.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer added that the nation could "breathe a sigh of relief" after avoiding a "catastrophic" economic collapse.
"But, for all the ups and downs and twists and turns it took to get here, it is so good for this country that both parties have come together at last to avoid default," he said.
Ballots on Republican amendments fail
The bill – which now heads to Biden's desk to be signed into law – ended a day of intense back-and-forth between party leaders and rank-and-file members who had threatened the bill's quick passage with last-minute gripes about the details.
Democratic leaders had spent months underlining the havoc that a first default in history would have wrought, including the loss of millions of jobs and $15 trillion in household wealth, as well as increased costs for mortgages and other borrowing.
The late evening drama came after a series of failed ballots on amendments sought mainly by Republicans who were threatening at one point to hold up the process, dragging it deep into the weekend.
Senators elected to offer 11 tweaks to the 99-page text, many objecting to funding levels for their pet projects – from border control and Chinese trade to taxation and the environment – and each requiring a vote.
Defense hawks upset at Pentagon spending being capped at Biden's budget request of $886 billion threatened at one point to derail the bill's passage entirely.
In the end, they fell in line after being offered a commitment to a separate bill providing cash for Ukraine's defense against the Russian invasion, and promoting US national security interests in the Middle East, and offering support to Taiwan against China.
Cover photo: Collage: REUTERS