The U.S. Congress is taking up legislation on federal borrowing authority this week that won’t prevail because of the political split between the chambers, leaving in place the debt-ceiling suspension passed Oct. 16.
The Senate voted 54-45 along party lines against advancing the measure, offered by the chamber’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. The Republican-controlled House began debate today on similar legislation and is set to vote on it tomorrow. The House probably will adopt the resolution, though it won’t become law because the Senate turned it down.
“I look forward to quickly dispensing with this Republican resolution,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said today on the Senate floor.
The mechanism letting Congress vote to disapprove of the increase in U.S. borrowing authority was in the law that ended a 16-day government shutdown and suspended the debt cap until Feb. 7. The approach, pioneered by McConnell in 2011 legislation raising the debt ceiling, is designed to give Republicans a chance to go on the record opposing an increase in federal borrowing authority.
Twenty-seven Senate Republicans joined 54 Democrats on Oct. 16 to raise the federal debt limit, opening the door to the disapproval votes. Four Republicans facing Tea Party-backed primary challenges -- McConnell, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Thad Cochran of Mississippi -- voted for the legislation.
Since then, Tea Party-aligned groups criticized the votes. The Senate Conservatives Fund -- a political action committee founded by former South Carolina Republican Jim DeMint that’s helped elect Tea Party-backed senators -- endorsed challengers to McConnell and Cochran.
Senator Charles Schumer of New York, the chamber’s third-ranking Democrat, today joined Democrats Barbara Boxer of California and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii to introduce legislation that would grant the president permanent authority to raise the debt ceiling unless Congress disapproves.
“The way it works now, the debt ceiling is a ticking time bomb, which threatens huge economic destruction,” Schumer told reporters today. “This bill would defuse it.”
Republicans called the proposal a political gimmick. McConnell said Democrats were “not going to find any dance partners” among Republicans to back the measure.
“It’s outrageous,” he said. “Especially when you consider that our debt is now about $17 trillion, which makes us look a lot like a European country. We have to get our debt under control before we move any further down the road to Greece and Spain. And time is not on our side.”