GRAND FORKS — North Dakota Republican Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer on Thursday evening, Oct. 7, voted against efforts to raise the national debt ceiling, joining nearly all their colleagues in forcing Democrats to boost the financial limit on their own.
The move came in two rounds of voting. The first, a procedural vote to bypass a filibuster, ended 61-38, with 11 Republicans joining Democrats to allow a final vote on a $480 billion increase to the debt ceiling. The final vote — on the increase itself — was 50-48, a purely party-line vote, in which all Republicans present voted against the hike.
The move appears to avert a government default that experts warned would come as soon as Oct. 18 without congressional action. A concurring vote in the House is expected as soon as Tuesday, Oct. 12.
“I opposed the Democrats’ provision to raise the debt ceiling. Democrats, who control the Senate, House and White House, have had months to raise the debt ceiling using reconciliation. Instead they are trying to use reconciliation to pass a $3.5 trillion tax-and-spend bill on a purely partisan basis,” Hoeven said in a statement Thursday evening. “I believe that legislation is bad for the country and I will continue to work to oppose it.”
In Minnesota, Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith supported the increase; in South Dakota, Republican Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds voted to bypass a filibuster before voting against the debt ceiling increase.
The approaching debt limit had raised speculation that the U.S. might default — an unprecedented event that would have sent shockwaves through both the national and global economies. But Thursday’s deal, dodging that outcome for now, showed Congress still has enough political cohesion to avoid that outcome.
The episode also briefly raised the possibility that Senate Democrats might move to end the filibuster, the 60-vote procedural threshold necessary to advance to a final vote on legislation. Cramer, in remarks captured by Washington media this week, said some GOP leaders didn’t want to “tempt fate and push (West Virginia Sen.) Joe Manchin to wreck the Senate and end the filibuster.”
It comes only a week after votes on government spending that will keep the government operating for a few more months. Hoeven and Cramer opposed the move as well (though it passed 65-35). Both cited concerns that a provision in the spending plan would allow Afghan refugees to gain identification paperwork without proper vetting.
“(Democrats’) legislation raises serious security concerns and punts on Congress’ responsibility to properly fund the government,” Cramer said last week in a statement released by his office. “I urge my colleagues to support fixing these provisions through the regular appropriations process.”
Another fight over the country’s finances is expected in just a few months, though. The new debt limit will likely be reached in December, experts predict — roughly the same time that government appropriations will run out. That will force Congress to once again strike deals both on government spending and on the debt that finances it.
“Republicans played a dangerous and risky partisan game, and I am glad that their brinkmanship did not work,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said after the debt ceiling hike passed on Thursday night. “What is needed now is a long-term solution so we don’t go through this risky drama every few months.”