White House - President Joe Biden is set to sign the Fiscal Responsibility Act, legislation that suspends the U.S. government's debt limit through January 2025 and avoids a potentially disastrous default on U.S. financial obligations.
He is scheduled to deliver remarks on the legislation's passage Friday evening.
The Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, June 1, 2023. (Photo by Diaa Bekheet)
The U.S. Senate voted Thursday night 63-36 in support of the measure. Democratic senators John Fetterman, Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey, Jeff Merkley and Bernie Sanders, who is an independent but caucuses with Democrats, joined 31 Republicans in voting against the bill.
'Tonight, senators from both parties voted to protect the hard-earned economic progress we have made and prevent a first-ever default by the United States," Biden said in a statement Thursday.
The bill allows the government to continue to borrow more money over the next 19 months to meet its obligations, exceeding the current $31.4 trillion debt limit.
Despite objections by far-right Republican lawmakers who said it did not go far enough to cut spending and from Democratic progressives who said it trimmed too much, the bill passed the House of Representatives under a 314-117 vote Wednesday night.
The legislation does not set a new monetary cap, but the borrowing authority would extend to January 2, 2025, two months past next year's presidential election.
In addition, the legislation calls for maintaining most federal spending at the current level in the fiscal year starting in October, with a 1% increase in the following 12 months.
"With the latest debt limit debate now behind us, our leaders must get serious about reforming this process so that we never again jeopardize the full faith and credit of the United States," Kelly Veney Darnell, interim CEO of the Bipartisan Policy Center, said in a statement sent to VOA.
"Bipartisan legislation like the Responsible Budgeting Act, introduced in the last Congress, would require lawmakers to routinely address our fiscal health by annually debating and voting on significant deficit reducing legislation - but without the full faith and credit of the country hanging in the balance," she said.
Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who negotiated the deal with Biden, told reporters that getting the bill passed "wasn't an easy fight." He emphasized the budget savings and criticized Democrats who wanted to separate the debate about future government spending from the need to suspend the debt limit so current financial obligations could be met.
"We put the citizens of America first and we didn't do it by taking the easy way," McCarthy said. "We didn't do it by the ways that people did in the past by just lifting [the debt ceiling]. We decided you had to spend less, and we achieved that goal."
McCarthy said he intends to follow Wednesday's action with more efforts to cut federal spending.
The measure does not raise taxes on the wealthy, a step wanted by Democrats. Nor will it stop the national debt total from continuing to increase, perhaps by another $3 trillion or more over the next year-and-a-half until the next expiration of the debt limit.
Other pieces of the legislation include a reduction in the number of new agents hired by the country's tax collection agency, a requirement that states return $30 billion in unspent coronavirus pandemic assistance to the federal government and extending from 50 to 54 the upper age bracket for those required to work in order to receive food aid.
Ken Bredemeier contributed to this report.