A senate standoff

Emma Homan, Staff Reporter

On October 7, the United States Senate passed an extension of the debt ceiling deadline. This gives the national government nine more weeks to permanently raise the debt ceiling, find another solution, or default on debt and initiate a government shutdown. Unlike previous shutdowns, this would have massive consequences on the national economy and the lives of millions of Americans.

According to a statistic from Moody’s Analytics posted by CBS News, the US government defaulting on its debt would lead to a loss of $15 trillion in household wealth and erase as many as 16 million jobs. In particular, government workers would lose their jobs, social security, and welfare. Veteran pension payments would be halted, the stock market would drop, and debt payments for citizens would spike. These consequences could send the country into an economic crisis.

But what is the debt ceiling? In simple terms, it is a limit to how much money the United States can owe at any given time. It first began in 1917, and now the Treasury Department must come to Congress to request it be raised in order to continue their spending and keep many government functions in operation. Raising and temporarily suspending the debt ceiling has become a common occurrence, but a bitter political standoff has now stopped these processes in their tracks.

Republicans and Democrats have far different views on how to handle the impending debt default. Democrats, who currently have the majority in both the Senate and House of Representatives, are attempting to raise or suspend the ceiling for a more extensive amount of time. Republicans, however, are blocking their attempts. Because the Senate is split along a 50-50 margin (with two Independents caucusing with Democrats), 60 votes, instead of the usual 51, are required to pass a bill. As such, ten Republican votes (presuming all 50 Democrats vote for the spending bill) are needed.  In an interview with The Washington Post, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said the following about the delegations;

“They have the House, the Senate and the presidency. It’s their obligation to govern,” he said.

The Republican party has a variety of reasons for holding the Infrastructure bill back. Typically, the GOP  values less funding for federal social programs, so greater debate on the bill may allow Republicans to lower spending on such initiatives. Alongside that, federal Midterm elections are occurring again in 2022, and this situation may cast a bad light on the Democratic party. Debt ceiling debates could allow Republicans to regain control of the house. This debate can also be used as a bargaining chip for Republican bills: ten Republican votes on the debt ceiling for Democrat votes on future Republican projects.

Despite the real risk on the economy and the lives of American citizens, the conflict does not seem any closer to a conclusion than it was three weeks ago. While the delegations occur on the congressional floor, banks and stock companies have been preparing for the possible fallout of a debt default. As the clock ticks down to mid-December when the national debt caps again, it’s still in the air whether or not decisions will be made before time is up.