Salem Radio Network News Friday, January 28, 2022

Politics

U.S. House introduces ‘fast-track’ legislation to raise debt limit

By Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday moved to advance legislation providing for fast passage of an increase in the federal government’s borrowing authority to avoid a looming default on the nation’s debt.

On Tuesday afternoon, the House Rules Committee began considering a bill to circumvent procedural hurdles that can delay passage of legislation in the Senate, allowing a debt limit increase to be approved by a simple majority there.

The dollar amount for the proposed new statutory debt limit still must be determined.

The breakthrough strategy, brokered by Democratic and Republican congressional leaders following months of political infighting, would establish a two-step approach for raising the Treasury Department’s borrowing authority.

First, the bill on the expedited Senate procedures would be voted on by both chambers. The House action could come as soon as Tuesday evening. Senate passage will need a supermajority of at least 60 votes and thus requires Republican cooperation; but Republican Senator Roy Blunt told reporters he thought his party would provide that.

A second bill actually raising the debt limit under the expedited procedure would then be debated for a maximum of 10 hours in the Senate, instead of the open-ended debate that can delay or kill most Senate bills.

The plan allows for a fast path to Senate passage by a simple majority vote in the 100-member chamber, instead of the 60-vote threshold normally required for most legislation.

Under the plan, the debt limit increase would have to be considered in the Senate no later than Jan. 15.

The expedited procedure for the debt limit was included in a bill to postpone Medicare cuts that would otherwise take place starting Jan. 1. That is a bill that most lawmakers would not want to delay or kill.

If successful, the legislation would give Republicans the ammunition they want in the 2022 congressional election campaigns to attack Democrats for raising the $28.9 trillion debt limit, even though Republicans would be facilitating its passage.

Earlier on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said lawmakers have made progress toward crafting legislation to raise the federal government’s borrowing authority, adding he was optimistic a default will be avoided.

“We have made good progress on this issue and I am optimistic that we will be able to prevent the awful prospect of the U.S. defaulting on its sovereign debt for the first time ever,” Schumer said in a speech to the Senate.

A senior Senate Republican, John Cornyn, told reporters that he would be comfortable embracing a debt limit bill that would move on a fast-track through the Senate with only Democratic support.

“It’s never been really a fight over the process. It’s just the accountability that comes along with spending all this money” that would increase the nation’s debt, Cornyn said.

He was referring largely to Democratic President Joe Biden’s $1.75 trillion domestic investment bill known as “Build Back Better” that Senate Democrats hope to pass in coming weeks.

Democrats say most or all of that bill’s spending will be offset by tax increases on the wealthy and that the current need to increase the debt limit largely is to cover past spending that Republicans supported.

The Bipartisan Policy Center last week estimated that as soon as Dec. 21 the Treasury Department could run out of “extraordinary measures” to keep government borrowing and debt payments limping along without congressional action.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan, Susan Cornwell, David Morgan and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Bill Berkrot, Aurora Ellis and David Gregorio)

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