The Senate passed a bill late Thursday evening to suspend the nation’s debt limit through January 1, 2025, averting a first-ever US default just days ahead of the deadline.
The House earlier this week already passed the measure, which can now be sent to President Joe Biden to be signed into law. Biden, just moments after the Senate passed the debt limit bill, praised Congress for its efforts and said in a statement, “I look forward to signing this bill into law as soon as possible.” The president will deliver an address to the nation on Friday on averting default.
Suspending the debt limit through 2025 takes the threat of default off table until after the presidential election. In addition to addressing the debt limit, the bill caps non-defense spending, expands work requirements for some food stamp recipients and claws back some Covid-19 relief funds, among other policy provisions. The Senate voted 63 to 36 to pass the bill.
The timeframe to pass the bill through Congress was extremely tight with little room for error, putting enormous pressure on leadership in both parties as the threat of default loomed.
To get the bill over the finish line, lawmakers raced the clock to prevent a default ahead of June 5, the date the Treasury Department warned it will no longer be able to pay all of the nation’s obligations in full and on time – a scenario that could trigger global economic catastrophe.
The bipartisan debt limit deal was struck between the White House and House Republicans – the culmination of long days and late nights of contentious negotiations that at times looked like they might break down and fall apart entirely.
The debt limit bill faced backlash from both the far left and the far right, but ultimately won support from a significant number of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer touted Democrats’ role in the debt ceiling agreement after the Senate passed the bill.
“We may be a little tired, but we did it,” Schumer said. “So we’re very, very happy. Default was the giant sword hanging over America’s head, but because of the good work of President Biden, as well as Democrats in the House and Democrats in the Senate, we are not defaulting.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement on the passage of the debt ceiling agreement, saying that “an important step toward fiscal sanity will finally become law.”
The measure passed the House by a wide margin – 314 to 117 – on Wednesday.
In addition to addressing the debt limit, the bill includes a wide range of provisions.
The legislation will rescind roughly $28 billion in unobligated funds from the Covid-19 relief packages that Congress passed to respond to the pandemic, according to the House GOP.
It will retain $5 billion in funding to accelerate the development of Covid-19 vaccines and treatments, and funding for vaccines and treatments for the uninsured, according to a White House source.
The package will also tighten the current work requirements in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, primarily by adjusting the work participation rate credits that states can receive for reducing their caseloads.
Work requirements will not be introduced in Medicaid, which House Republicans had called for in their debt ceiling bill.
Under the package, borrowers will have to begin paying back their student loans at the end of the summer, as the Biden administration has already announced, according to a source familiar. The pause has been in effect since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
The package also includes new measures in the National Environmental Policy Act aimed at boosting the coordination, predictability and certainty associated with federal agency decision making, according to the White House source.
It will designate a single lead agency, charged with developing a single environmental review document, and also will require agencies to complete environmental reviews in one year, or two years for the most environmentally complex projects.
This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.