Government shutdown deadline looms as Senate prepares to vote on funding bill

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WASHINGTON — The Senate is scheduled to vote Monday on the House-passed government funding bill, but its fate remains uncertain with Republicans threatening to block the measure.

Lawmakers have until the calendar turns to Friday to approve funding for the government or a shutdown will be triggered.

The sticking point is the inclusion of a debt ceiling increase in the funding bill, which Republicans say they are unwilling to support and are demanding that Democrats take the political heat for the increase.

The Treasury Department has said the debt limit will be breached sometime in October if it’s not lifted, warning of consequences for the U.S. economy.

The accumulated debt that necessitated raising the limit hasn’t been amassed by a single party, but Republicans are tying the increase to the Democrats’ plan to authorize trillions of dollars in spending on social safety net programs.

The government spending legislation needs 60 votes to break a filibuster in the Senate, meaning at least 10 Republicans would have to break ranks.

“We will support a clean continuing resolution that will prevent a government shutdown,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said before the vote. “We will not provide Republican votes for raising the debt limit.”

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Republicans want Democrats to raise the debt limit in a separate bill, the sweeping multitrillion-dollar package that they plan to pass on a party-line vote. Democrats have refused, saying they won’t set a precedent in which only one party is responsible for paying the country’s bills, which both parties have racked up over many years.

“If Republicans follow through with their plans to vote no, they will be on record deliberately sabotaging our country’s ability to pay the bills and likely causing the first ever default in American history,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Monday, warning of “another recession” if that occurs.

“So I want my Republican colleagues to think carefully about the practical consequences of what they’re doing,” he said, warning that the government may not be able to send Social Security checks or provide benefits to veterans in that scenario.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Schumer argued in a statement last week that a debt limit extension through December 2022 “would provide an amount of time commensurate with the debt incurred as a result of passing last winter’s bipartisan $908 billion emergency COVID relief legislation,” which they noted that numerous Republicans supported and then-President Donald Trump signed into law.

The bill also includes billions of dollars in disaster relief for recent storms and wildfires, as well as money to assist evacuees after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

At the same time, the House is expected to vote Thursday on an infrastructure bill that progressive Democrats have threatened to block to maximize their leverage over a separate multitrillion-dollar package. The vote had originally been scheduled for Monday.

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