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Fast-track debt limit process added to spending cuts delay bill

Jennifer Shutt, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — House Democrats introduced a bill Tuesday that would limit Senate debate on debt limit legislation to 10 hours, creating a loophole in that chamber’s 60-vote legislative filibuster rules.

The bill is set to go to the House floor as soon as Tuesday, along with a revised fiscal 2022 defense policy bill, though the two won’t be combined when they head to the Senate, according to a Rules Committee spokesman.

The provision would allow Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., to introduce a joint resolution, which has the force of law just like a bill, no later than Dec. 31, 2021, to increase the $28.9 trillion debt ceiling by an amount yet to be determined. It would then be automatically placed on the Senate calendar, and in order to proceed to its consideration at any time through Jan. 15.

Debate on the measure would be limited to 10 hours, with no amendments, motions to commit or move on to other business allowed. Then there would be a simple majority threshold for passage, or 51 votes if all senators are present.

The special procedure would be available for one time only, wouldn’t be applicable to any other piece of legislation and would expire Jan. 16.

It wasn’t yet clear when the debt limit measure would be introduced or taken up, or in what dollar amount it would be raised by. Some independent forecasts estimate it would take something like $2 trillion in additional borrowing authority to make it past the November 2022 midterm elections.

 

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen has urged lawmakers to act before Dec. 15 on the limit, after which she’s said it’s possible Treasury won’t be able to meet all U.S. financial obligations on time. But she’s also said there’s a “high degree of confidence” that Treasury can make all of its required payments immediately after that date, and independent forecasters have said there may be a few more weeks of wiggle room if needed.

Congressional leaders have said they’d prefer to deal with the issue before Dec. 15, however.

“Over the past few days we have made good progress on this issue and I’m 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 Tuesday morning on the Senate floor. “Nobody wants to see the U.S. default on its debts.”

The debt limit process language is tucked into a bill that would avoid several Medicare cuts that would otherwise be triggered Jan. 1, including across-the-board reductions to provider reimbursements as well as separate cuts to physician and laboratory services payments.

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