Senate Democrats weigh bill to avert US govt shutdown

WASHINGTON: The US Senate could vote Wednesday on a stopgap funding bill to forestall a government shutdown, Democrats said, but without a provision to increase the federal debt limit and avert a credit default.
Funding for federal agencies runs out at the end of the day on Thursday and Senate Democrats are preparing temporary legislation to keep the lights on until December 3.
The bill, which includes $6.3 billion to help Afghan refugees and $28.6 billion in disaster aid, is expected to have broad cross-party support in both chambers of Congress.
“We can approve this measure quickly and send it to the House, so we can reach the president’s desk before funding expires midnight tomorrow,” Chuck Schumer, the leader of the Senate Democrats, said in the chamber.
“With so many critical issues to address the last thing the American people need right now is a government shutdown. This proposal will prevent one from happening.”
The House would take up the legislation later Wednesday or early Thursday.
Shutdowns typically mean sending hundreds of thousands of government employees home as federal services and properties close — but they can cost money rather than saving it.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the 2018-2019 shutdown wiped $11 billion from the economy.
With the threat of the shutdown off the table, Democratic leadership would be free to focus on raising the debt ceiling and passing President Joe Biden’s domestic priorities.
Lawmakers are scrambling to break a partisan deadlock over the prospect of a first-ever US debt default that would plunge the economy into a downwards spiral.
The government is likely to run out of cash on October 18, treasury secretary Janet Yellen has warned, unless Congress raises the federal borrowing cap.
But Republicans say they won’t help, despite having pressed for hikes under Donald Trump, because they want no part in Democrats’ spending plans, including a historically large $3.5 trillion package of social reforms.
The House passed a “continuing resolution” to keep funding available until December 3. But the Senate shot down the plan on Monday, with Republicans objecting to a debt ceiling hike that was included in the wording.
Republicans then blocked an effort by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to lift the debt ceiling by a majority vote.
Mitch McConnell, the Republicans’ leader in the evenly divided 100-member Senate, accused the Democrats of attempting to “drain money from people’s pockets (and) spend it on socialism.”
“They want to print and borrow trillions of dollars, and then set it on fire,” he said.

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