WASHINGTON — The Senate failed on Monday to pass a key procedural vote to advance the House-passed short-term government funding bill as the deadline to avert a shutdown looms at the end of the week.
The Senate voted 48 to 50 on the procedural motion, with Republicans opposing the stopgap measure because it included an extension of a debt ceiling. Republicans said they were unwilling to support the debt limit increase and are demanding that Democrats take the political heat for the vote.
All Republicans voted in opposition and Democrats supported the measure, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer switching his vote to "no" in a procedural move that allows him to call for another vote on the measure.
"It's one of the most reckless, one of the most irresponsible votes I've seen taken in the Senate, and it should send a signal to every family, small business, market watcher, about who in this chamber is in favor of endangering the economic stability of our country," said Schumer on the Senate floor, following the vote.
Schumer added, "we'll be taking further action to prevent this from happening this week."
Even before the vote officially failed, Democrats had begun contemplating fallback options to prevent a shutdown.“If this doesn’t pass, we must keep government open,” said Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md.
“Everybody should be concerned but Maryland’s a particularly vulnerable state.”
Lawmakers have until the calendar turns to Friday to approve funding for the government or a shutdown will be triggered.
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.
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., criticized Democrats for attaching the debt ceiling to the government funding measure, which included aid for states such as his own that have been hit hard by natural disasters.
"I voted no once it became clear it couldn't pass, if it had any chance of passing, I would have voted yes because I need to bring relief to my state," Cassidy said following the vote. "On the other hand, I think it was pretty cynical of Senator Schumer to attach relief for disaster victims to something that he knew wasn't going to pass."
Cassidy adds, "We need a clean CR [continuing resolution]. One without the debt ceiling."
Separately, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said "Democrats can raise the debt ceiling all by themselves."
“So do it. Plain and simple," he said.
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."
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," Schumer 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.