Senate Republicans block legislation to avert government shutdown

Senate Republicans block legislation to avert government shutdown
The Senate voted 49 to 49

Republican Senators voted against a resolution that would have kept the government open and lifted the debt limit to prevent a default on the nation’s credit.

The Senate voted 49-49 after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, switched his vote so he could bring the measure up again. Mr Schumer criticised Republicans for putting the nation’s credit at risk.

“The Republican Party has solidified itself as the party of default, the party that says America doesn’t pay its debts” Mr Schumer said on the floor of the Senate after the vote.

“Republicans would let the country default for the first time in history,” he said. “What the Republicans in the Senate did tonight is not normal.”

The measure required 60 votes to pass and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declared that he would not vote to increase the debt limit. Mr McConnell said Republicans would support a “clean resolution” to avert a government shutdown and allocate disaster relief for Louisiana and help Afghan refugees and support Iron Dome missile defence for Israel.

“We will not provide Republican votes for raising the debt limit,” Mr McConnell said on the Senate floor ahead of the vote. Last week, Mr McConnell criticized Democrats for governing in a partisan way and that they needed to cover the debts for the spending bills they already passed and want to pass later this year.

“Don’t play Russian roulette without our economy,” he said. “Step up and raise the debt ceiling to cover all that you’ve been engaged in all year long.”

The United States is set to default on its credit sometime in October and money for running the United States government will run out at the end of the month. The debt limit is for spending the United States has already incurred.

The downvote comes the same week that House Democrats plan to pass a bipartisan infrastructure that already cleared the Senate and President Joe Biden’s proposed massive social welfare agenda that would include expanding Medicare coverage to include vision, hearing and dental care, tuition-free community college, child care, paid family leave and home and community-based care for elderly people and people with disabilities.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi previously criticized Republicans for not voting to raise the debt limit last week.

“Why should it be that we as Democrats always come to the rescue when it’s a Republican president,” she said in her weekly press briefing last week.

Ms Pelosi has said in the past that Democrats would not include a debt limit increase in the spending package, which Senate Democrats plan to pass using a process called budget reconciliation, which allows for legislation to be passed with a straight up-or-down vote. But only if it is related to the budget.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said a government shutdown would be harmful amid the coronavirus pandemic, but that public health officials would be exempt.

“But government shutdowns also are hugely costly,” Ms Psaki told reporters in the afternoon. “They would include the cutting of staff at a range of agencies; that’s not a positive thing, obviously.”