Senate Quickly Passes Debt Limit/Spending Cut Bill

Senate Quickly Passes Debt Limit/Spending Cut Bill

Despite concerns that it might take as long as a week, the Senate tonight quickly passed the bill suspending the debt limit and imposing budget caps to reduce the deficit. The vote was 63-36.

The Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 passed the House yesterday evening and it only took about 24 hours for the Senate to follow suit.

A total of 44 Democrats, 17 Republicans and 2 Independents voted in favor of the bill, versus 4 Democrats, 31 Republicans, and 1 Independent opposed. One Republican did not vote.

Several Senators opposed to the bill had indicated they might use Senate procedures to delay a final vote, but obviously decided against that strategy. The Senate did consider 11 amendments over about three hours of debate, but all failed.

President Biden negotiated the deal with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and no changes have been made to it. The only remaining step now is for Biden to sign it.

Biden cheered the Senate’s action, calling it a “big win for our economy and for the American people.”  He said he will sign the bill and address the American people tomorrow (Friday).

The bill suspends the debt limit until January 1, 2025, removing the prospect of the nation defaulting on its debt until after the presidental and congressional elections.

It also caps non-defense FY2024 spending (except for veterans medical care, which is exempted) at FY2023 levels and allows only a 1 percent increase in FY2025, but the specific impact on agencies like NASA will not be known until the appropriations committees mark up their bills. Defense spending is exempted from the budget caps, but for FY2024 cannot exceed Biden’s request, which is $886 billion.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) strongly opposed the bill because he wants more defense spending than requested and reportedly received written assurances from Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) of a plan for a supplemental funding bill for defense.

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