Sept. 28 (UPI) — Senate Republicans have blocked a spending bill as a government shutdown and a debt default looms, saying they would refuse to vote for any policy that raises the debt ceiling, a routine procedure that authorizes the U.S. Treasury to finance existing obligations.
The bill to extend government funding and cover emergency assistance failed to pass the Senate on Monday evening after it narrowly passed the House along party lines earlier in the month.
The Democrats needed 60 votes to move the measure along but failed to attract a single Republican to cross the aisle during the Monday vote, which downed the measure with a tally of 48 in favor to 50 against with two not voting.
Democrats sought to pass the bill to stave off a government shutdown on Thursday when government coffers go dry and to raise the debt ceiling before mid-October in order to avoid defaulting for the first time in history.
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., lashed out at his GOP colleagues for putting the United States in this position.
“I want to make sure everyone understands exactly what has happened on the Senate floor: The Republican Party has now become the party of default, the party that says America doesn’t pay its debts,” Schumer said from the floor following the vote. “Our country is staring down the barrel of two totally Republican-manufactured disasters — a government shutdown and a first-ever default on the national debt, the impacts of both would gravely harm every single American in this country.”
The result of the vote, which Schumer had earlier called, was expected as not one Republican had voiced support for the bill despite the GOP having lifted the debt ceiling multiple times during the presidency of Donald Trump.
Schumer said the Democrats will be taking further action this week to prevent the shutdown without specifying the plans.
“What the Republicans in the senate did tonight is not normal,” he said. “This isn’t your typical Washington fracas and it shouldn’t be treated as such. It has far more severe consequences than the typical political catfight.”
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said from the floor that the bill was destined to fail as Republicans have said if the Democrats want to raise the debt ceiling they are going to have to do it alone.
“We’re not willing to raise the debt ceiling while they write a reckless tax and spending spree of historic proportions behind closed doors,” he said, adding that the Democrats control the House, Senate and the White House and knew the Republican position two months ago, giving them time to find another solution.
“There never had to be one ounce of drama to any of this,” he said. “Any drama here is self-created by the Democrats.”
If a solution isn’t found by Thursday, Democrats may be forced to separate funding the government and lifting the debt ceiling, a measure that has never been done before. If the debt ceiling isn’t raised and the United States defaults on its obligations, it could possibly trigger a recession, raise the deficit and hurt the nation’s international standing.
“Failing to increase the debt limit would have catastrophic economic consequences,” the Treasury said, adding that defaulting on its legal obligations, which is unprecedented, would precipitate a financial crisis and threaten the lives of Americans.
Congress has either raised, extended or revised the debt ceiling 78 times since 1960, it said, 49 times under Republican presidents and 29 times under Democratic presidents.
“Congressional leaders in both parties have recognized that this is necessary,” the agency said.