WASHINGTON, Sept.27 (Reuters) – A heavily divided US Senate failed on Monday to propose a measure to suspend the federal debt ceiling and avoid a partial government shutdown as Republican lawmakers refused the bill the votes needed to move forward.
President Joe Biden’s Democrats’ legislation was aimed at passing two rapidly approaching deadlines that, if not met, threaten to destabilize the U.S. economy as it struggles to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The near party line vote of 48 to advance against 50 opposing did not reach the 60 votes needed to advance the bill in the 100-seat Senate. Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer voted “no” to allow him to ask for another vote.
Democrats who tightly control both houses of Congress now only have three days to find another way to keep the government in business beyond Thursday – when current funding expires.
Republican Senator Richard Shelby predicted that lawmakers would not resolve the deadlock anytime soon. “He will probably be here on Thursday,” he told reporters.
Lawmakers will also need to find a way to raise the debt ceiling to avoid the risk of default, with independent analysts warning that the US Treasury Department will likely completely exhaust its borrowing power between Oct.15 and Nov.4.
Schumer, who warned that a default would end the economy, later said Democrats would take further action this week to avoid a government shutdown and debt default. He did not specify what the next step would be.
“Our country is now looking at the barrel of two Republicans fabricated disasters,” he told the Senate after the vote.
A government shutdown – or worse, a default – would be a huge blow to Biden’s Democrats, who have positioned themselves as the party of responsible government after Republican Donald Trump’s chaotic presidency.
Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell tried unsuccessfully to force the chamber to vote for a funding extension, separate from the provision that would suspend the government’s $ 28.4 trillion debt limit until the end of 2022.
“We could have a bipartisan vote to fund the government today, if not for the weird tactics of the Democratic Senate leader,” he told the Senate.
Republicans have said they want Democrats to lift the debt ceiling themselves, saying they do not support their spending plans. Democrats point out that much of the country’s new debt was incurred under the Trump administration.
SCHEDULE OF INCLUDED INFRASTRUCTURES
Democrats also disagree on two pillars of Biden’s national agenda – a $ 1,000 billion infrastructure bill and a $ 3.5 trillion social spending program.
The split risks derailing Biden’s presidency and the party’s hopes of retaining its majorities in Congress in next year’s midterm elections.
Biden spent the weekend negotiating with lawmakers over the phone, administration officials said. The White House and Democrats in Congress were considering slashing electric vehicle benefits and community college tuition fees in the social spending bill, sources said.
Biden told reporters Democrats may not reach a deal this week, an assessment backed by Senate Democrat No.2 Dick Durbin.
“I don’t think anyone has a rosy script,” Durbin told reporters.
The infrastructure bill, which moderates favors, would fund projects for roads, bridges, airports, schools and others. It was passed in the Senate last month with considerable Republican support.
But Progressive Democrats have threatened to oppose the measure unless moderates in the House of Representatives and Senate agree to the larger package, which Democrats intend to pass without Republican votes.
Moderate Democrats say the $ 3.5 trillion price tag for the social spending bill is too high, and Democrats, including Pelosi, have recognized that it will need to be cut to pass.
Biden’s efforts to expand healthcare and education, reduce child poverty, and tackle climate change are at stake.
House Democrats walked out of a Monday night meeting confident they would bridge their differences.
“I think we’re going to get there,” said Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat.
Reporting by David Morgan and Richard Cowan; Additional reports by Susan Cornwell, Jarrett Renshaw and Susan Heavey; Writing by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Scott Malone and Peter Cooney
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