Senate Republicans expected to block bill to suspend debt ceiling in key vote

The Senate is slated to take a procedural vote Wednesday on whether to advance a House-passed bill to suspend the nation's debt limit until December 2022, but Republicans are expected to block the measure.

By Clare Foran, Ali Zaslav and Ted Barrett, CNN

(CNN) -- The Senate is slated to take a procedural vote Wednesday on whether to advance a House-passed bill to suspend the nation's debt limit until December 2022, but Republicans are expected to block the measure.

Pressure is intensifying on lawmakers to ward off an impending financial crisis, but Democrats and Republicans remain locked in a stalemate over how to address the debt limit as the clock ticks down to a potential default. The US could be just a little over a week away from defaulting on its debt for the first time ever.

Republicans say that Democrats, who control both chambers of Congress and the White House, should act alone without GOP votes using a process known as budget reconciliation. Democrats have been outraged over the GOP position, arguing that the debt limit is a shared bipartisan responsibility and so far largely dismissing the possibility of using reconciliation, saying that would be lengthy and unwieldy and the risk of miscalculation is too high.

Wednesday's vote is an attempt to break a filibuster to end debate and proceed to a final vote on passage. It would need 60 votes to succeed and Democrats, who control 50 seats, would have to find at least 10 Republicans willing to vote in support, which is not expected to happen. It is not clear if any Republicans will vote with Democrats in the vote.

This won't be the first time Republicans have thwarted efforts by Senate Democrats to suspend the debt limit.

Last week, Senate Republicans blocked a bill to suspend the debt limit and avert a government shutdown from advancing. Later in the week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer made a unanimous consent request to set up a vote to suspend the debt limit with a simple majority threshold, but that was also blocked by Republicans.

Democrats are continuing to attempt to pressure Republicans to allow them to approve a debt limit increase by a simple majority vote without Republicans filibustering it. But there is no indication so far that the strategy will succeed.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer criticized Republicans for being "reckless" and urged them to "get out of the way" and allow Democrats to pass the House bill suspending the debt limit.

"Republican obstruction on the debt ceiling over the last few weeks has been reckless, it's been irresponsible," Schumer said in floor remarks Wednesday ahead of the vote. "But nonetheless today Republicans will have an opportunity to get exactly what they kept asking for. The first and easiest option is this: Republicans can simply get out of the way and we can agree to skip the filibuster vote so we can proceed to final passage of this bill."

Republicans have argued that Democrats are wasting time on votes that have no chance to succeed given that they have made their position clear.

"Even now while the Democratic leader complains that he's short on time, he continues to waste time with partisan stunts that are dead on arrival. He scheduled yet another vote this afternoon which he knows will fail," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in floor remarks on Wednesday ahead of the vote.

"The majority has known for three months that show votes like this would go nowhere," McConnell added.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned lawmakers that the federal government will likely run out of cash by October 18 unless Congress raises the debt ceiling. But Congress might not even have that long.

That's because October 18 is not a set-in-stone deadline. It's more of a best guess estimate of when the money will run out, which makes it far harder to know exactly when Congress would need to act to avert potential financial catastrophe -- and increases the odds that lawmakers could accidentally trigger a default by not acting soon enough.

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