Senate GOP Torpedoes U.S. Government Funding Bill, Raising Odds of Federal Fiscal Crises

A possible government shutdown looms after Republicans in the U.S. Senate refused to pass a Democratic-supported bill to lift the nation's borrowing limit. Getty Images.

U.S. Senate Republicans blocked an attempt by Democrats on Monday evening to begin debate on a broad bill that would avert multiple looming fiscal crises for the federal government.

The measure to briefly keep the government operating past the end of the fiscal year on Thursday, as well as to increase the borrowing limit and approve billions in aid for regions struck by extreme weather, failed on a vote of 48-50.

All Democrats supported the measure and all Republicans opposed it, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, (D-N.Y.), switching his vote to “no” so the measure could be brought up later for another vote.

It was not yet clear Monday evening how congressional Democrats would proceed with tackling the major, time-sensitive issues on their plate.

After the vote, Schumer said only that they will be taking “further action” this week.

The failed vote was expected, after Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky.), has said for weeks that GOP senators would oppose raising the debt limit at a time when Democrats also are seeking to push through a massive social spending plan with no Republican support.

The stalemate sets up a dangerous scenario: If the Democratic-controlled chambers of Congress can’t pass a short-term spending bill before midnight Thursday, the federal government would begin to shut down. That means suspending non-essential government services, and scaling back those that must continue. There are about 150,000 federal workers in Maryland, and thousands of other jobs in the state connected to the federal government.

And without congressional action to increase the amount of money that the federal government can borrow — a step necessary due to years of accumulating debt obligations — the country could risk defaulting on its debts.

After the failed vote, Schumer blamed GOP senators for the looming uncertainty, accusing them of “playing games with the full faith and credit of the United States.”

“The Republican Party has solidified itself as the party of default, and it will be the American people who pay the price,” Schumer said.

Republicans likewise pointed fingers at Democrats, who barely control the split 50-50 chamber, with Vice President Kamala Harris able to break tie votes.

McConnell argued for voting on an identical measure that would leave out the debt ceiling increase, saying his party will not help lift the debt ceiling while Democrats “write a reckless taxing-and-spending spree of historic proportions,” a reference to the $3.5 trillion social spending bill that’s a central part of President Joe Biden’s policy agenda.

Both of Louisiana’s senators, Republicans Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, opposed moving ahead with the Democratic bill and spoke in support of removing the debt ceiling hike, highlighting the storms that have wreaked havoc on their state and the need to move forward on areas where there is agreement.

“It is moronic for us to be having this fight when it can be so easily solved,” Kennedy said, calling for the debt ceiling increase to be added to the budget resolution instead. “Nature abhors a moron.”

Editor Danielle E. Gaines contributed to this report.

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Laura Olson
Laura covers the nation's capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections, and campaign finance. Before joining States Newsroom, Laura was the Washington correspondent for the Allentown Morning Call, where she covered Pennsylvania's congressional delegation, public policies affecting the state, and federal elections. She also wrote about Pennsylvania state politics for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and, and covered the California state capital for The Associated Press and the Orange County Register. A Nebraska native, Laura has a bachelor's degree from Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and political science.