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Congress is set to avoid a debt default after Senate approves a path forward

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have agreed on a plan to try to avoid a federal default without GOP votes.
J. Scott Applewhite
/
AP
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have agreed on a plan to try to avoid a federal default without GOP votes.

Updated December 9, 2021 at 6:32 PM ET

The Senate voted 59-34 Thursday to approve a plan hatched by its leaders that would allow Congress to avoid a federal default and tie up other legislative loose ends.

The House passed the bill Tuesday night, 222-212, and it now heads to President Biden's desk.

Once signed, it puts into motion an agreement reached by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to allow the Senate to increase the federal borrowing limit without the threat of a Republican filibuster.

The approach combines a one-time change to Senate rules with a measure to prevent scheduled cuts to Medicare payments.

The move is an attempt to end a months-long standoff as Republicans have refused to join Democrats in voting to increase the debt limit.

"I think this [plan] is in the best interest of the country by avoiding default," McConnell told reporters Tuesday. "I also think it is in the best interest of Republicans."

It is a lengthy process, kicked off with the House vote early this week. Now that the one-time change passed the Senate, the bill still needs to be signed into law by the president. Only then will the House and the Senate be able to increase the federal borrowing limit with a simple majority vote in both chambers.

The one-off agreement would allow Senate Democrats to avoid default, assuming the party is unified on the amount of borrowing power they're willing to allow. Democrats say their goal is to choose a figure that will resolve the debt limit until after the midterm elections in November 2022.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen notified Congress earlier this month that lawmakers have until Dec. 15 to increase the nation's borrowing limit or risk defaulting on the country's bills.

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