Senate debates debt ceiling legislation as default date nears

A bipartisan bill to suspend the federal debt ceiling and impose spending limits faced fresh hurdles in the Senate on Thursday as a group of Republican defense hawks raised objections to Pentagon funding levels. It must be enacted by Monday to avoid government blunders.

Despite warnings from leaders of both parties that the Senate must act quickly, a handful of Republicans jumped on the bandwagon to attack military spending in a measure negotiated between Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Biden, and demanded that their concerns be addressed before they are resolved. Passed.

“To my House colleagues, I can’t believe you did this,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, blaming the architects of the move to cut the military at a time of growing threats from Russia and China. This budget is a win for China.

Concerns have changed the timetable for Senate action, with some lawmakers saying a vote could come as early as Thursday evening, but officials warn approval may not come until Friday.

The deal, overwhelmingly approved by the House on Wednesday night, would increase Pentagon spending to $886 billion next year, a 3 percent increase, with several domestic programs targeted for program cuts. But GOP supporters argued for higher spending on the military.

“I have to say it’s completely false that some people on our side of the aisle are calling this a victory,” said Sen. Roger Wicker, Republican of Mississippi.

Mr. Graham and others said they wanted, at the very least, assurances that Congress would pass a supplemental funding bill to increase spending later, even though that would reduce the savings Republicans hoped to achieve through their debt-limit cuts.

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“We know this budget is not enough to address the global threats we face,” said Senator Susan Collins, the senior Republican on the full Appropriations Committee. “An emergency escort should be on our way.”

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said the Senate should move quickly and that Mr. Protests erupted immediately after Biden warned that no changes to the deal would be made for his signature. He advised lawmakers not to engage in legislative action before the June 5 so-called ex-date, when Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said the government would run out of money to pay its bills.

“Time is a luxury we don’t have in the Senate if we want to prevent default,” Mr. Schumer said. “June 5 is just four days away. At this stage, unnecessary delay or last-minute hold-ups can be unnecessary and dangerous.

Even as the deal moved across the capital, the effects of the debt ceiling continued to pinch. The Treasury announced Thursday that it would delay auctions of three-month and six-month “bills” — short-term debt the government has no more room to borrow until the borrowing limit is suspended.

Several senators have said they want to propose amendments to the bill that would suspend the $31.4 trillion debt ceiling until January 2025 while cutting spending on domestic programs. If they are denied the opportunity, they have the ability to slow down the process.

Senators negotiated which amendments would be allowed on the floor, but Mr. Schumer was determined to defeat them. Any change would force the action back to the House, where no action would occur before the default deadline.

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“Any change that forces us to send this bill back to the House is absolutely unacceptable,” he said. “It almost guarantees default.”

Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, was among those calling for votes Thursday to remove a provision from the law that would have expedited approval of an oil pipeline in West Virginia.

“I support improving the permitting process for all energy projects,” said Mr. Cain said. “But Congress putting its thumb on the scale so that a particular program doesn’t have to conform to the same process as everyone else is unfair and opens the door to corruption.”

After driving much of the legislative agenda in the previous two years, the Senate Mr. Biden and Mr. Leaving the debt ceiling negotiations with McCarthy, their demands for spending cuts and other policy changes brought the country to the brink of default. Almost all Republican senators supported Mr. They signed a letter supporting McCarthy. As a result, senators have had little leverage in negotiations and are now forced to approve legislation they did not help craft. This frustrates some people.

Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, Mr. He praised McCarthy’s efforts, but said senators had no obligation to rubber-stamp the deal and had qualified prospects to change it.

“We are not a party to the agreement,” he said. “Why should we be bound by the strict terms of that treaty? The Senate has so far had no say in the process.

But Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, urged his fellow Republicans to support the plan.

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“Last night, a majority of our House colleagues voted to uphold the agreement that Speaker McCarthy reached with President Biden,” he said. “In doing so, they took an urgent and important step in the right direction for the health of our economy and the future of our country.”

Joe Rennison Contributed reporting from New York.

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