The Senate voted to send the House-passed debt ceiling bill to President Biden’s desk on Thursday night.
The final vote was 63-36, with one senator, Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., not voting.
The ‘no’ votes came from 31 Republicans and five progressive Democrats.
The Senate went through a rapid-fire series of 11 amendment votes, all of which failed. If they had not, the House would have to take up the bill once again in its amended version, with only three days to go before the Treasury has said the U.S. will run out of funds to pay its bills on June 5.
In a move meant to appease defense hawks, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to beef up defense funds through an emergency supplemental defense bill. The leaders also committed to pass all 12 appropriations bills to avoid spending freezes.
Without the agreement, which required buy-in from all 100 senators, the final vote on the bill could have been pushed into next week – past June 5, the date the Treasury has said the nation will run out of funds.
In a move meant to appease defense hawks, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to beef up defense funds through an emergency supplemental defense bill
The deal, which suspends the debt ceiling until Jan. 1, 2025, includes a defense spending cap for fiscal year 2024 at $886 billion – a three percent increase over 2023 that some defense hawks in the Senate say amounts to a cut when inflation is factored in. It allows for a one percent increase to $895 billion in 2025.
Conservatives had balked at the plan’s defense spending they say is inadequate.
‘This bill poses a mortal risk to our national security,’ Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said on the Senate floor Thursday.
No one was more irate at the deal than defense hawk Sen. Lindsey Graham.
‘To my House colleagues— I can’t believe you did this,’ Graham, R-S.C., said Thursday
‘To my House colleagues— I can’t believe you did this,’ Graham, R-S.C., said Thursday.
‘Don’t tell me that a defense budget that is $42 billion below inflation fully funds the military,’ Graham said.
He called the deal ‘really dumb’ and said it was the most ‘ill-conceived idea’ since the 2011 deal that led to budget cuts. ‘The people who negotiated this, I wouldn’t let them buy me a car.’
Even top Senate GOP appropriator Susan Collins called the defense budget a ‘completely inadequate top line number’ and GOP Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., demanded it be increased in the appropriations process.
One member of Senate GOP leadership – Sen. John Barrasso, number three Republican and conference chair, voted against the bill.
‘This is a missed opportunity to get government growth under control and put our nation on a sustainable fiscal path,’ he said in a statement.
One member of Democratic leadership – Sen. Elizabeth Warren – vice chair of the Democratic conference, also opposed the deal.
Graham said earlier he would hold the bill up as long as he could until changes were made.
‘We’ll be here until Tuesday until I get commitments to rectify some of these problems.’
‘I want a commitment from the leaders of this body that we’re not pulling the plug on Ukraine,’ Graham said. ‘I want a commitment that we’ll have a supplemental’
Graham has suggested the Senate take up supplemental Ukraine-focused defense spending bills as a way to bypass the $886 billion defense cap.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, has promised to ’emphatically’ vote against the bill. ‘This deal begs the question, with Republicans like these, who needs Democrats?’ Lee questioned, accusing House GOP leadership of ‘not even pretending to negotiate in good faith’
Ukraine aid, if classified as emergency funding, would not count toward that limit. Congress has appropriated supplemental Ukraine funding bills before – including one President Biden signed in May 2022.
Graham has said he plans to offer amendments to the bill that would remove defense spending caps and reiterate U.S. support for Ukraine.
‘I want a commitment from the leaders of this body that we’re not pulling the plug on Ukraine,’ Graham says. ‘I want a commitment that we’ll have a supplemental.’
Other than the commitment for supplemental defense funding, all other demands. in exchange for the deal were shot down in amendment votes.
Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., demanded a vote on his amendment to strike approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, Sen. Joe Manchin’s pet project, from the deal.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, had promised to ’emphatically’ vote against the bill.
‘This deal begs the question, with Republicans like these, who needs Democrats?’ Lee questioned, accusing House GOP leadership of ‘not even pretending to negotiate in good faith.’
Lee said he would offer an amendment to strike exemptions from the food stamp work requirements.
While there are already work requirements for most able-bodied adults between 18 and 49, the bill raises the age limit to 54, but has an expiration date and would lower the age right back down to 49 in 2030.
The agreement would also make it more difficult for states to waive work requirements for SNAP by lowering the number of exemptions permitted at the state-level each month.
Democrats also won some new expanded benefits for veterans, homeless people and young people aging out of foster care. And in a last-minute snafu for Republicans, a report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), actually said the amount spent on SNAP would increase by $2.1 billion given the new exemptions.
Lee has also called the bill’s ‘pay-as-you-go’ provisions – which would require the Biden administration to offset any costs incurred by new executive actions – ‘completely toothless.’
The so-called ‘paygo’ requirement could be waived by Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young if she deems it ‘necessary.’
The deal also stipulated that student loan payments would resume August 29, but did not rescind President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program as Republicans had hoped.
The deal cuts some $21.4 billion from the IRS, which gained an additional $80 billion in funding from Democrats last Congress, but only immediately claws back $1.4 billion. White House officials said Biden agreed to shift $10 billion from the IRS to other funding priorities in fiscal year 2024 and another $10 billion in fiscal year 2025.
It also allows for Congress to claw back some $30 billion in unspent Covid-19 relief funds, but it remains to be seen whether states will actually send the money back or find ways to spend it.
It also leaves non-defense discretionary spending flat in 2024 and allows for a one percent increase in 2025 – essentially amounting to cuts since inflation is not factored in.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated the bill would cut deficits by $1.5 trillion over the next decade compared with previous projections – but some informal estimates say it could allow the debt to swell to $35 trillion.