House approves debt ceiling extension through early December

WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives approved on Tuesday a short-term deal lifting the nation’s debt limit, allowing the U.S. government to pay its debts through early December.

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Update 7:35 p.m. EDT Oct. 12: The House approved the extension of the nation’s debt limit through early December at around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, following a stopgap measure adopted by the Senate last week to avert default.

The party line vote was 219-206, CNN reported.

The measure will be sent to President Biden for his signature.

The $480 billion increase in the country’s borrowing ceiling avoids an unprecedented default that would have decimated the economy, The Associated Press reported.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had warned that steps to avert default on the country’s debts would be exhausted by Monday, and from that point, the department would soon be unable to fully meet the government’s financial obligations, as well as threatening the availability of routine government payments to Social Security beneficiaries, disabled veterans and active-duty military personnel would also be called into question. the AP reported.

Original report: The Senate passed the proposed $480 billion increase to the debt ceiling last week. The House is expected to quickly follow suit so President Joe Biden can sign it into law this week, according to The Associated Press.

“We must lift the debt ceiling and hope that we can have a unanimous Democratic vote and perhaps a bipartisan vote to do so,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wrote in a letter sent Monday to colleagues.

>> Related: Senate OKs extending debt ceiling until December; House approval needed

The House approval is expected less than a week before the government was expected to run out of money to pay for its debts. In a letter sent last month to Congress, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that after Oct. 18, it was “uncertain whether we could continue to meet all the nation’s (financial) commitments,” raising the possibility that the U.S. could default on its loans for the first time ever.

Republicans had fought bipartisan efforts to raise the nation’s borrowing limit, trying to force Democrats to pass the increase using a tool called budget reconciliation, The Wall Street Journal reported. The process allows the Senate to pass laws which change spending or taxes with a simple majority. However, the process is lengthy and would have used up time Democrats wanted to spend on passing Biden’s climate and social-welfare agenda, according to the Journal.

>> Related: What would happen if the U.S. doesn’t raise the debt ceiling?

Republicans have aimed to link Biden’s $3.5 trillion federal government spending plan with the country’s rising debt, the AP reported, though the two issues are separate. Even if Congress declines to pass the spending proposal, the debt ceiling will need to be raised to allow the government to meet its existing legal obligations, such as paying Social Security and Medicare benefits, military salaries and more.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., agreed to a short-term deal to raise the debt ceiling last week amid speculation that Democrats could try to end the filibuster in order to pass the extension.

>> Related: Deal reached to extend debt ceiling until December, Schumer says

In a letter sent Friday to President Joe Biden, McConnell vowed not to help Democrats raise the debt ceiling again at the end of the short-term extension in December.

“Your lieutenants on Capitol Hill now have the time they claimed they lacked to address the debt ceiling through standalone reconciliation, and all the tools to do it,” he wrote. “They cannot invent another crisis and ask for my help.”

Since 2002, Congress has modified the debt limit 18 times, most recently raising it to $28.4 trillion at the beginning of August.