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House passes stopgap bill to avert government shutdown, debt default

The legislation faces an uphill climb in the Senate, where Republicans have promised to filibuster it because of the extension of the debt ceiling.
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WASHINGTON — The House passed legislation Tuesday that would fund the government through Dec. 3 and extend the debt limit until after the 2022 elections.

The party-line vote was 220-211, with no Republicans joining Democrats in supporting the bill.

The broad GOP opposition foreshadows trouble in the Senate, where at least 10 Republicans are needed to defeat a filibuster. House Republican leaders pressured their members to oppose the bill.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has also vowed that Republicans won't supply the votes to extend the debt ceiling, arguing that Democrats should do it on a partisan basis.

The parties have been locked in a heated battle over the issue in recent days, with Democrats insisting that the debt ceiling has historically been raised on a bipartisan basis, including under former President Donald Trump and a Republican-led Congress.

"The debt limit is an absolutely phony issue," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said, pointing out that it merely enables the U.S. to pay bills that Congress has racked up.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said, "It is essential that we keep the government open," adding that a shutdown would be "catastrophic" for American families.

Pelosi said the debt limit "is about paying bills already incurred."

Republicans laced into Democrats during debate, saying the bill was a blank check for the party's "socialist" policies.

"They are asking us to extend the debt ceiling to finance reckless spending," said Rep. Dan Meuser, R-Pa. "Democrats want unlimited borrowing authority to finance a big-government socialist agenda."

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., the ranking member of the Rules Committee, criticized Democrats in a floor speech for having crafted the funding bill without Republican assistance.

"The majority has opened the national checkbook. They have done so with only Democratic votes. That's their prerogative. After all, they control the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate," he said. "But since the majority's spending this money over Republican objections and without Republican cooperation, it's up to the majority to raise the debt limit. They should not expect Republican votes to help them cover their out-of-control spending."

Democrats, however, noted that there was bipartisan support for raising the debt limit during the Trump administration.

"Republicans voted for a debt ceiling increase three times under Trump, and this proposed increase would pay for debts his administration incurred," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. "Now is not the time to hold our economy hostage and tear vital strands from our safety net."

Democrats also highlighted that the funding bill includes provisions to keep key parts of the government running and to fund natural disaster recovery efforts.

"We need to keep the federal government's lights on, and ... we are in the middle of a global pandemic, and too many people are unsure how to keep their own lights on," said Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio. But "Senate Republicans would rather block efforts to Build Back Better than do their jobs," she said.

The measure would extend the debt limit through December 2022.

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.

The vote was delayed after a clash between Democrats over funding for Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system. It was included in the original bill, but some progressives who oppose the spending threatened to tank the legislation if it was included.

Party leaders stripped it out. Moderate Democrats slammed opposition to the funding.

"I'm outraged and dismayed that some of my colleagues object to helping Israel defend itself from rocket attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists. America must support our ally Israel," tweeted Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla.

Hoyer placated proponents of the money by promising that the House would vote separately on Iron Dome funding later this week under suspension of the rules, meaning it would move quickly and need two-thirds' support to pass.