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Senate votes to raise debt limit until December, temporarily avoiding default

The Treasury Department has warned it would be an economic calamity if the country blows past the Oct. 18 deadline.
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WASHINGTON — The Senate passed a bill Thursday night to extend the debt limit through early December, temporarily ending a partisan standoff just 11 days before the government's deadline to avoid a default.

The bill passed 50-48, with no Republicans joining Democrats in support. The vote came shortly after the chamber voted 61-38 on a procedural motion to break a filibuster, securing the bill's advance.

The vote on the agreement needed 60 votes to prevent what the Treasury Department warns would be an economic calamity if the country defaults for the first time. Ten Republican votes were needed to bypass the GOP filibuster to make it to the simple-majority final passage vote.

The Republicans who voted in the affirmative were Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Susan Collins of Maine, John Cornyn of Texas, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Richard Shelby of Alabama and John Thune of South Dakota. Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C. and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. were absent.

The deal would raise the limit by $480 billion, which is the figure U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says is needed to get to Dec. 3.

"The solution is for Republicans to either join us in raising the debt limit or stay out of the way and let Democrats address the debt limit ourselves," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., following the procedural vote.

"America's full faith and credit must never be used as a political bargaining chip. I hope my Republican colleagues relent from trying to make it one when we revisit this issue soon," he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told members Thursday it is possible they'll need to return early to vote on the agreement. After passing the House, the bill would then head to President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said later Thursday evening that the House, which was scheduled to be out next week, will return Tuesday to pass a stopgap measure to address the debt limit.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden looks forward to signing the bill. She said raising the limit was "a shared responsibility" that pays for debts incurred in the past, and "there must be no question of whether America will pay its bills."

"As we approach the coming months, we hope that even more Republicans will join Democrats in responsibly addressing the debt limit instead of choosing default or obstruction," she said in a statement.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who opposed the bill, said in a statement Democrats and the White House have decided to go on an "unprecedented, dangerous spending and tax-hiking spree that will drag down our economy and require even more debt in the future."

Senators on both sides of the aisle also expressed frustration with Schumer after he laced into Republicans during his victory speech on the Senate floor.

“I’m sure Chuck's frustration was built, but that was not a way to take it out. We just disagree. I would have done it differently," said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who was seen sitting behind Schumer during the speech, shaking his head and putting his head in his hands before getting up.

“I let him have it," said Thune, the Senate minority whip, whose support helped pass the bill, in response to Schumer. “I just thought it was incredibly partisan speech after we had just helped them solve a problem."

Portman, a Republican who supported the measure, called it "unnecessarily partisan."

On Wednesday, McConnell said Republicans would not filibuster a temporary extension of the debt limit as long as Democrats put a dollar amount on the increase, giving them more time to enact a long-term solution on their own.

"This will moot Democrats’ excuses about the time crunch they created and give the unified Democratic government more than enough time to pass standalone debt limit legislation through reconciliation," McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement.

Before the vote, Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas and Lindsey Graham, R- S.C., called the offer by McConnell a mistake.

"I believe Democratic Leader Schumer was on the verge of surrendering, and then, unfortunately, yesterday Republicans blinked. I think that was a mistake. I think that was the wrong decision," said Cruz on the floor Thursday.

Graham called the agreement a "self-inflicted wound and we need not do this again."

Former President Trump also sent out a statement urging Republicans to not vote for "this terrible deal."