WASHINGTON, Sept 22 (Reuters) – In a high-stakes standoff over the U.S. debt ceiling, congressional Republicans believe they see a chance to scale back President Joe Biden’s sweeping domestic agenda while boosting their odds of retaking Congress in 2022.
The Republican gambit passed an initial political test on Tuesday, when the House of Representatives voted 220-211 along party lines to approve a measure to suspend the $28.4 trillion debt ceiling and fund the federal government beyond Sept. 30, when the current fiscal year ends.
Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear that his caucus, which holds half the chamber’s 100 seats, will block it, seeking to frame the vote as a referendum on a $3.5 trillion Biden domestic spending package the House and Senate will take up in coming weeks.
The stakes are high. Failing to fund federal agencies past Sept. 30 could trigger the third partial government shutdown in a decade and a failure to suspend the debt ceiling by mid-October brings the risk of a historic default that could shake financial markets and even spark a recession.
Both McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have used the word “catastrophic” to describe the fallout from a default.
“America must never default. We never have and we never will,” McConnell told reporters on Tuesday. “The debt ceiling will be raised, as it always should be. But it will be raised by the Democrats.”
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