Biden signs debt ceiling increase, averting default

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President Joe Biden delivers brief remarks before a meeting with his coronavirus response coordinator Jeffrey Zients and members of the White House COVID-19 Response Team in the State Dining Room at the White House on December 09, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (The Hill) – President Biden on Thursday signed a bill raising the debt ceiling by $2.5 trillion, narrowly averting default on the nation’s debt.

The measure passed the Senate Tuesday afternoon in a 50-49 vote that was strictly along party lines after Democrats and Republicans reached a deal to sidestep the filibuster.

The House moved to pass the bill late Tuesday in a 221-209 vote with one Republican member voting in favor, sending it to Biden’s desk for his signature.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had warned Congress that the federal government could default on its debt soon after Wednesday without action to raise the debt limit. As the Senate passed the measure Tuesday, the White House urged “quick action” on the bill and commended Senate leaders for “fulfilling this fundamental legislative and constitutional responsibility.”

The action means that the U.S. will avoid default until at least 2023.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reached an agreement last week to allow a one-time exemption from the filibuster to approve the debt ceiling hike with a simple majority vote. The Senate voted to pass the exemption last week with modest GOP support, though some Republicans criticized the agreement. GOP senators uniformly voted against the debt ceiling increase on Tuesday.

Republicans had demanded repeatedly that Democrats raise the debt ceiling on their own using budget reconciliation, the same process through which they’re aiming to pass Biden’s mammoth climate and social policy bill.

But the White House had urged bipartisan action to raise the debt ceiling, pointing to the handful of times that Democrats voted with Republicans to raise the debt limit during the Trump administration.

Nevertheless, the passage of the bill is good news for Biden, who now has one less pressing legislative issue to address before the Christmas holiday. Biden is hoping to see the Senate advance his climate and social spending package by next week, though continued doubts from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) have raised questions about the degree to which that is possible.

Biden spoke with Manchin on Monday in what the White House described as a “constructive” conversation, but the discussions seemed to break down on Wednesday, leaving the fate of the package in doubt. 

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