Senate Republicans set to block US spending and debt ceiling bill

US government shutdown updates

Republicans in the US Senate are set to block a bill that would raise the US debt ceiling and fund the federal government, piling pressure on Democratic lawmakers to act alone to avoid a budgetary crisis by the end of the week.

The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed a measure earlier this month in a party-line vote to avert a government shutdown on October 1 and extend the US debt limit until December next year.

But all 50 Republicans in the Senate, which Democrats control by the slimmest of margins, are poised to reject the bill when Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate majority leader, brings it to the floor on Monday evening. Given that the bill needs 60 votes to pass the upper chamber, it is almost certain to fail.

The vote will bring to a head a weeks-long stand-off between Democrats — who have called on the GOP to sign on to lifting the Treasury’s borrowing limit — and Republicans, who have steadfastly refused to endorse the measure and repeatedly accused Joe Biden’s party of reckless public spending.

The latest fiscal showdown between Democrats and Republicans comes as Democratic lawmakers scramble to iron out internal party divisions in order to pass Biden’s flagship $1.2tn infrastructure bill and a $3.5tn social investment package in the coming weeks.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House, has scheduled a make-or-break vote on the infrastructure bill for Thursday, the same day that funding for the federal government is set to run out.

Republicans voted to suspend the debt limit three times during Donald Trump’s administration, in efforts that were backed by Democrats.

This time, however, the opposition party, led by Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, has insisted that Democrats should bypass the Senate filibuster — which requires the support of at least 10 Republicans in order for a measure to become law — and go it alone to extend the borrowing limit and avert a government shutdown ahead of a 12:01am Friday deadline.

Janet Yellen, the US Treasury secretary, has said failing to lift the limit on federal borrowing would be a “catastrophe”. The Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think-tank, estimated last week that the US government could default on its obligations as soon as mid-October if the debt ceiling is not raised.

But Senate Republicans have so far not blinked, arguing that there is no risk of calamity because Democrats can use Senate procedure to lift the debt limit and fund the federal government on their own. Democrats at present control the upper chamber of Congress, 50-50, with vice-president Kamala Harris able to cast a tiebreaking vote.

Republicans are also trying to tear apart Biden’s legislative agenda with just over a year to go until the 2022 midterm elections, when control of both the House and Senate will be up for grabs.

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