Biden signs bill to prevent shutdown as Congress turns to debt ceiling, social spending bill

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  • President Joe Biden signed a short-lived government funding bill into law to prevent the shutdown.
  • This measure will keep the government running till February 18.
  • The legislation buys Democrats time as they attempt to raise or suspend the US debt limit before December 15 and pass their $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act by the end of the year.

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President Joe Biden signed a short-lived government funding bill on Friday to stave off an impending crisis as Congress turns its eyes to two other big tickets.

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Biden’s signing precludes the shutdown hours before the Friday deadline. The measure – which the House and Senate passed on Thursday – will keep the government running until February 18.

With the threat of a disruptive funding lapse, lawmakers must move on to the next steps on a difficult December to-do list. The Democratic-led Congress will next try to avert a potential default on the US debt, passing Biden’s $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act and approving an annual defense budget bill.

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Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen expects the US to reach its debt limit on December 15 if lawmakers do not raise or suspend the limit. Republicans have said they will not vote to raise the US borrowing limit, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated he cannot stop Democrats from doing so.

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The GOP has argued that Democrats alone need to raise the debt limit as they attempt to pass their massive social spending bill without Republican votes. Yellen has pointed out that Congress will have to raise the limit regardless of legislation passed by Democrats this year. Raising or suspending the loan limit does not authorize new spending.

While Democrats try to reduce the risk of a default, they also aim to push Biden’s top domestic priority through the Senate. Most leaders want the Chuck Schumer Build Back Better Act to be passed—which would invest in child care, household tax credits, Medicare, Medicaid and green energy—by Christmas.

He is awaiting word from a Senate lawmaker whether the plan complies with the budget process that would allow Democrats to pass it on their own. West Virginia’s Democratic Sens. to Schumer. It would also need to win over Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kirsten Cinema, who have yet to sign the bill.

The House passed its version of the plan last month. The Senate is likely to change, meaning the House will have to vote for a second time.

The flurry of activities in the Senate doesn’t stop with the massive social-spending plan. The Chamber is also striving to pass the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which sets spending levels for defense programs.

The legislation has come on the wall in the Senate amid a deadlock over a package of amendments.

Meanwhile, Biden’s signature on the spending bill only delays the threat of closure. Democrats will try to prepare full-year appropriations bills that could pass both houses of Congress before funding runs out on February 18.

Still, Republicans have long preferred ongoing proposals, which lock in Trump-era funding levels that are in line with GOP priorities.

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