Democrats Propose Bill to Raise Debt Ceiling, Setting Up Clash With Republicans

The House is on track to vote on the measure Tuesday afternoon but it appears doomed in the Senate.

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The House prepares to vote on a spending bill that would raise the debt ceiling, setting up a clash with Republicans.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), center, speaks to reporters while departing the House Democrat caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Tuesday, September 21, 2021.Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Sept. 21, 2021Updated 11:50 a.m. ET

The House is expected on Tuesday to pass legislation that would keep the government funded through early December, lift the limit on federal borrowing through the end of 2022 and provide about $35 billion in emergency money for Afghan refugees and natural disaster recovery, setting up a clash with Republicans who have warned they will oppose the measure.

The bill, which Democrats released on Tuesday just hours before a planned vote, is needed to avert a government shutdown when funding lapses next week and avoid a first-ever debt default when the Treasury Department reaches the limit of its borrowing authority within weeks. But it has become ensnared in partisan politics, with Republicans refusing to allow a debt ceiling increase at a time when Democrats control Congress and the White House.

In pairing the debt limit raise with the spending package, Democrats hoped to pressure Republicans into dropping their opposition. But few, if any, Republicans are expected to support it.

And the prospects for passage in the 50-50 Senate appeared dim amid widespread opposition by Republicans, who have said they will neither vote for the legislation nor allow it to advance in the chamber, where 60 votes are needed to move forward.

The legislation would extend government funding through Dec. 3, buying more time for lawmakers to negotiate the dozen annual spending bills, which are otherwise on track to lapse when the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. The package would also provide $6.3 billion to help Afghan refugees resettle in the United States and $28.6 billion to help communities rebuild from hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters.

“It is critical that Congress swiftly pass this legislation to support critical education, health, housing and public safety programs and provide emergency help for disaster survivors and Afghan evacuees,” said Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, the chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee.

But the decision by Democratic leaders to attach it to legislation lifting the federal debt limit through Dec. 16, 2022 could ultimately jeopardize a typically routine effort to stave off a government shutdown, heightening the threat of fiscal calamity.

Led by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, Republicans have warned for weeks that they had no intention of helping Democrats raise the limit on the Treasury Department’s ability to borrow. While the debt has been incurred with the approval of both parties, Mr. McConnell has repeatedly pointed to Democrats’ efforts to push multi-trillion-dollar legislation into law over Republican opposition.

Democrats, who joined with Republicans during the Trump administration to raise the debt ceiling, have argued that the G.O.P. is setting a double standard that threatens to sabotage the economy. Should the government default on its debt for the first time, it would prompt a financial crisis, shaking faith in American credit and cratering the stock market.

The spending measure, which Republicans have indicated they would support on its own, would also provide $1 billion to the Israeli government for the Iron Dome rocket defense system. It would boost funding to expand the capacity of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and to increase the size of vouchers under the federal nutrition program for women, children and infants.

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