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House votes to raise debt ceiling by $2.5 trillion, sends bill to Biden to avoid default

The legislation would prevent another clash over the debt ceiling until after next year’s midterm elections.
The Capitol at dawn on Oct. 6, 2021, in Washington.
Drew Angerer / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — The House passed legislation early Wednesday to raise the federal debt limit by $2.5 trillion, sending the bill to President Joe Biden for his signature.

The measure, approved in a 221-209 vote, would avoid a default and prevent another clash over the debt ceiling until after next year’s midterm elections. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois was the only Republican to vote with Democrats to pass the bill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on the floor before the vote that “this has a direct impact on the pockets of American people.”

The Senate approved the measure 50-49 along party lines Tuesday.

The Treasury Department had set a deadline of Wednesday to extend the country's borrowing authority, warning of catastrophic economic and financial consequences if Congress failed to act in time.

Increasing the debt ceiling does not add to the national debt. It enables Congress to pay bills it has accrued and meet obligations for red ink created by both parties over decades.

Congress sent Biden a bill last week that allowed senators to approve increasing the debt limit with a simple majority vote instead of the typical 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.

The measure to expedite consideration of the debt ceiling increase was the product of negotiations over the past month between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Democrats and Republicans were deadlocked over increasing the debt ceiling in October. GOP leaders insisted that Democrats approve a debt limit increase on their own using the special budget reconciliation process, which would have allowed Democrats to advance a measure with a simply majority vote.

Democrats opposed the proposal, however, demanding bipartisan cooperation, and ultimately Republicans agreed to help lift the debt ceiling by advancing the fast-track measure last week.