US Senate approves bipartisan debt ceiling legislation, sends to Biden's desk

US Senate approves bipartisan debt ceiling legislation, sends to Biden's desk
Image source: Reuters

Washington, US: The US Senate late on Thursday night approved a bill to increase the government's borrowing limit, and has sent it to President Biden's desk with only a few days left before the government was set to run out of money to pay its debts on June 5, Fox News reported.

The bill which was passed in a 63-36 vote. 4 Democrats, 31 Republicans, and an Independent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, voted "no". The bill implements the agreement that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Biden to increase debt ceiling and cut expenditure, Fox News reported.

Following weeks of heated discussions between McCarthy and Biden, the bill was sent to the Senate on Wednesday by the House in a 314-117 bipartisan vote.

According to Fox News, because the Senate was unable to pass its own plan, it was forced to observe the negotiations and had no practical choice but to approve the agreement.

The bipartisan agreement suspends the debt ceiling without a restriction until January 1, 2025, reduces non-defense expenditure to levels similar to fiscal 2022, caps spending increases at 1% in fiscal 2023, and establishes optional caps for the next four years. Additionally, it recovers some cash intended for the Internal Revenue Service and certain COVID-19 pandemic funds that were not yet spent.

In the first year of the agreement, defence spending would increase by around 3%, less than the rate of inflation. The pact would compromise American national security, several Republican senators complained about it on the Senate floor, according to Fox News.

"To my House colleagues, I can't believe you did this," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on the Senate floor.

Graham and others threatened to hold up the bill until assurances were given that defense spending would not be limited by the deal, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., offered those assurances.

The Senate spent several hours working out an agreement to quickly consider the bill, the leaders agreed to allow 11 votes on amendments. But as expected, none of the 11 proposed Senate amendments passed on Thursday night, approving any of them would have altered the agreement and could have eroded the deal struck by McCarthy and Biden, Fox News reported.

Just like the House vote, defectors from both parties were expected in the Senate. Progressive lawmakers have argued that the spending cuts in the bill go too far, while conservatives complained they did not go far enough.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had warned Congress that the country could face economic catastrophe if lawmakers did not lift or suspend the debt limit by June 5.

One provision in the final deal requires a 1 per cent across-the-board spending cut if Congress can't pass the 12 annual appropriations bills, something it has not done regularly for years, Fox News reported.

As lawmakers were debating the various amendments, Senate leaders sent out a statement calling on Appropriations Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., and ranking Republican Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, to begin the process of cobbling together the 12 bills to avoid this cut.

The United States House of Representatives passed legislation late Wednesday to implement the debt ceiling agreement negotiated between President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, putting Congress on track to approve additional borrowing just days before the government is anticipated to run out of money.