Congressional Democratic leaders announced on Monday that they will attach a suspension of the debt limit to a must-pass spending bill to keep the government funded, a move that essentially dares Republicans to vote no and spark a shutdown. The issue is expected to trigger a major showdown as Republicans so far have not been willing to budge and have repeatedly said they will not vote to raise the debt limit.
“The legislation to avoid a government shutdown will also include a suspension of the debt limit through December 2022 to once again meet our obligations and protect the full faith and credit of the United States,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement on Monday.
The House is expected to vote on that must-pass spending bill, known as a continuing resolution, that attaches the suspension of the debt limit on Tuesday. The vote will be an early litmus test to see if Republicans are willing to vote to shut down the government.
The House had been set to take up a stopgap spending bill ahead of the September 30 deadline for government funding to expire and also to take action on the debt limit since Congress may only have until mid-October to act before the federal government can no longer pay its bills. It was not clear until Monday afternoon, however, whether Democrats would tie the two issues together.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced Friday that the House will move to suspend – rather than raise – the debt limit the week of September 20 “to ensure that America pays its bills on time.” But in his announcement, the No. 2 House Democrat did not explicitly say whether that would be included as part of the spending bill.
If Senate Republicans block the stopgap spending bill over the debt limit, there could still be enough time to strip the debt limit measure out of the spending bill and pass a clean stopgap spending bill to avoid a shutdown. But the vote would take place perilously close to the shutdown deadline and would likely require cooperation on both sides to process a quick Senate vote. It would leave the debt ceiling problem unresolved, setting up yet another issue to be dealt with in the weeks to come.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn, the No. 3 House Democrat, had suggested earlier Sunday Democrats may need to go it alone in passing an increase to the debt limit, but only if “necessary.”
“I’m not fine with that, but if that’s what it takes, that’s what it will take,” the South Carolina Democrat told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” when asked whether he was comfortable with the debt limit increase passing in a Democrats-only vote.
Pelosi had said in a letter to her colleagues Sunday night she wants Congress to address the debt limit in a “bipartisan” way, essentially rejecting the idea of attaching it to legislation that Democrats would pass on their own.
“Congress, as always, is ironclad in its commitment to never letting the full faith and credit of the United States come under threat,” Pelosi wrote. “Indeed, since 2011, every time the debt limit has needed to be raised, Congress has addressed it on a bipartisan basis, including three times during the last Administration. When we take up the debt limit this month, we expect it to be bipartisan once more.”
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called on Congress to raise the debt ceiling in a Wall Street Journal op-ed Sunday, warning that if the US defaults on its debt, it “could trigger a spike in interest rates, a steep drop in stock prices and other financial turmoil.”
This headline and story have been updated with additional developments Monday.
CNN’s Manu Raju and Lauren Fox contributed to this report.