By David Morgan and Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Members of the Democratic Party, to which US President Joe Biden is affiliated, planned a Wednesday vote in the Senate to lift the US debt ceiling, establishing yet another clash with Republicans amid to the risk of a federal debt default that would have serious economic consequences.
The effort looked doomed to failure, as the House’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, said on Tuesday that members of his party would block the vote, as they have done twice before. McConnell urged Democrats to raise the debt ceiling on their own using a more complicated approach that rivals find impractical.
“They have time to do this. And the faster they start, the better,” McConnell said at a news conference.
In the absence of a clear solution, Congress is likely to push the US government closer to unprecedented and unnecessary default, which analysts say would disrupt the global financial system, increase borrowing costs and eliminate millions of jobs.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the government will exhaust its borrowing capacity by Oct. 18 if Congress does not increase the borrowing allowance, currently at $28.4 trillion.
Democrats tightly control both Houses of Congress, and the House of Representatives last week voted to lift the debt ceiling by the end of 2022.
But Democrats need at least ten Republican votes to overcome a procedural hurdle in the Senate, which is split evenly between the two parties. Republicans blocked two other efforts to raise the debt ceiling last week.
“If Republicans want to vote ‘no’ tomorrow, if they really want to be the default party, that’s their choice,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “They have a chance to show that they are still responsible. It’s not too late. But it’s getting dangerously close.”
Republicans said the unpleasant task must be the responsibility of the ruling party. If they manage to force the Democrats to raise the debt limit on their own, the issue will likely serve as the basis for attacks against Democratic candidates in the 2022 legislative elections.
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