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Senate Republicans expected to block bill to suspend debt limit and avert shutdown in key vote

Government funding is set to expire on September 30, but the stopgap bill the House approved last week would extend funding and keep the government open through December 3. In addition, the measure includes a debt limit suspension through December 16, 2022. The clock is ticking to address the debt limit and Congress may only have until mid-October to act before the federal government can no longer pay its bills.

If the measure fails to advance in the Senate, as anticipated due to GOP opposition, it will leave Congress without a plan announced by Democratic leadership in both chambers about how they will keep the government operating perilously close to the date when funding will run dry and a shutdown could be triggered. It’s possible Democrats could move to strip out the debt limit suspension from the funding bill and attempt to pass a clean stop-gap spending measure quickly through both chambers ahead of the deadline, which Senate Republicans have said they would support, but it’s not yet clear what will happen.

Democrats do have options to raise the debt limit on their own to prevent the US from defaulting on its debts, but they argue that the vote should be a bipartisan shared responsibility.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer criticized Republicans ahead of the vote, saying, “after today there will be no doubt about which party in this chamber is working to solve the problems that face our country, and which party is accelerating us towards unnecessary, avoidable disaster.”

The Senate will be voting on a procedural motion to advance the legislation, which needs 60 votes to succeed. While a few Senate Republicans may ultimately vote in support of the legislation, it is not expected there will be 10 Senate Republican votes in favor, which would be needed to reach the 60-vote threshold since Democrats only control 50 seats in the chamber.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has made clear for months that Republicans will not vote to increase the federal borrowing limit, setting the stage for a major showdown over the issue. McConnell’s threat has prompted outrage from Democrats, who have said the GOP leader is playing a dangerous game that could tank the US economy. Republicans argue that it’s not uncommon for the majority party to shoulder the burden for increasing the debt limit, a politically toxic vote for lawmakers up for reelection.

McConnell said on Monday ahead of the vote that Republicans are ready to support a bill to avert a shutdown as long as it does not have the debt limit attached.

“Let me make it abundantly clear one more time: We will support a clean continuing resolution that will prevent a government shutdown … We will not provide Republican votes for raising the debt limit,” he said.

“Republicans are not rooting for a shutdown or a debt limit breach,” he added.

McConnell also said that he will attempt to bring up a clean stop-gap funding bill later Monday as an alternative to the House-passed bill.

“Before we vote this afternoon, I’ll ask consent to strike the partisan CR that is dead on arrival and instead have the Senate vote on a clean continuing resolution that could pass this chamber easily,” he said. “We’ll see if Washington Democrats actually want to govern or whether they want to add the prospect of a government shutdown to the list of inflation, Afghanistan, the border and all the other national crises that are the direct results of their own decisions.”

By attaching the debt limit suspension to the must-pass funding bill, Democrats are essentially daring Republicans to vote no and spark a shutdown.

The stakes are extremely high. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called on Congress to raise the debt ceiling in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, warning that if the US defaults on its debt, it “could trigger a spike in interest rates, a steep drop in stock prices and other financial turmoil.”

This story has been updated with additional developments Monday.

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