Schumer pushes debt action this week; GOP says go it alone

Washington

In this Sept. 28, 2021, file phot, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks to reporters after a Democratic policy meeting at the Capitol in Washington. Congress is moving to avert one crisis while putting off another. The Senate is poised to approve legislation Thursday that would keep the federal government running into early December. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer warned on Monday that lawmakers “do not have the luxury of waiting” to suspend the nation’s debt limit to allow more borrowing to pay off U.S. bills, aiming to pass crucial legislation before week’s end.

Oct. 18, two weeks away, is the date, that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says the government will exhaust its cash reserves, an event she says would likely trigger a financial crisis and economic recession. But it would be unwise to come anywhere close, the Democratic Senate leader said.

“The consequences of even approaching the X date could be disastrous for our economy and devastating to American families, raising the costs of borrowing for average Americans and hampering our economic recovery over the long-term,” Schumer said in a letter Monday to Democratic senators.

Democrats and Republicans are in a standoff over how to handle an extension for the debt ceiling. Republicans are insisting that Democrats go it alone with a legislative tool that already is being used to try and pass President Joe Biden’s plan to boost safety net, health and environmental programs. Democrats say that extending the debt limit has traditionally been a bipartisan effort and that the debt cap, now at $28.4 trillion, was built up under presidents from both parties.

Despite the stakes for the economy, there has been no outward sign that Schumer and Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell are nearing a compromise. McConnell dug in Monday with his own letter — to Biden.

“We have no list of demands. For two and a half months, we have simply warned that since your party wishes to govern alone, it must handle the debt limit alone as well,” McConnell said.

Schumer said that if the debt issue is not resolved this week, the Senate will likely be forced to remain in session during the weekend and possibly the following week when senators were scheduled to be back in their home states.

Schumer also discussed the current state of play with the bipartisan infrastructure bill that has already passed the Senate and is stuck in the House as well as Biden’s larger, $3.5 trillion effort focused on social programs and the environment. He noted that the president visited with House Democrats on Friday to generate support for both measures.

“He encouraged them to stick together, compromise, and find the sweet spot that will allow us to complete our work,” Schumer said. “I agree with his sentiment wholeheartedly – we can get this done, together, if we put aside our differences and find the common ground within our party.”

Biden will be traveling to Michigan on Tuesday to promote his legislative plan as negotiations resume in Washington. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have said they won’t back a $3.5 trillion spending bill. And many House Democrats won’t support the smaller bipartisan infrastructure plan until they get an agreement on the larger measure.

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