The US Senate has failed to advance a measure that aims to avert a partial government shutdown and suspend the federal debt ceiling, after Republicans refused to support the proposal in the sharply divided chamber of Congress.
Senate Democrats were unable to pass legislation on Monday that would confront two fast-approaching deadlines that, if left unaddressed, threaten to destabilise the United States economy as it struggles to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Republicans secured enough “no” votes to prevent the measure from advancing under Senate rules requiring 60 of the chamber’s 100 members to approve most legislation.
Democrats, who narrowly control both chambers of Congress, now have just three days to find another way to keep the government operating beyond Thursday – when current funding expires.
Lawmakers will also have to figure out how to raise the debt ceiling to head off the risk of default, with independent analysts warning that the US Treasury Department is likely to fully exhaust its borrowing authority sometime between October 15 and November 4.
Al Jazeera’s Heidi Zhou-Castro, reporting from Capitol Hill, said the failed Senate vote means “the clock is ticking”. Zhou-Castro explained that lawmakers from both major US parties want to prevent a government shutdown and to shield the US from defaulting on its debt, but they disagree on how to achieve those goals.
“The bill that Democrats crafted, which has failed to advance in the Senate, sought to address both the debt ceiling and the government shutdown… The problem is Republicans have agreed to continue funding the government past this week, however, they have said they will not help in raising the debt ceiling,” she said.
“Democrats must scramble in an increasingly narrow window to come up with another solution.” Before the vote on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer warned that a default would hammer the economy. “Republicans are intentionally making default more likely,” he said on the Senate floor.
A government shutdown – or worse, a default – would be a huge hit to President Joe Biden’s Democrats, who have positioned themselves as the party of responsible government after Republican Donald Trump’s chaotic presidency.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said he would try to force the chamber to vote for a funding extension, separate from the provision that would suspend the government’s $28.4-trillion debt limit through the end of 2022. That is not expected to succeed.