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Biden Signs Measure Raising the U.S. Debt Limit Until Dec. 3

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 10/15/2021 Jennifer Epstein and John Harney

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden has signed a bill that provides a short-term increase in the U.S. debt limit, the White House said on Thursday night.

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His signature on the legislation, approved by the House on Tuesday night and narrowly by the Senate last week, averts the imminent threat of a financial calamity. But the bill allows the Treasury Department to meets its financial obligations only until roughly Dec. 3, meaning another bitter partisan confrontation will likely unfold in a matter of weeks.   

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in a letter to Biden last week, said Republicans had helped prevent an immediate crisis but warned they wouldn’t cooperate with Democrats in raising the limit again.

McConnell came under criticism from fellow Republicans, including Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and former President Donald Trump, after he agreed to produce enough votes to pass the Dec. 3 extension.

“I will not be a party to any future effort to mitigate the consequences of Democratic mismanagement,” McConnell wrote to Biden. “Your lieutenants on Capitol Hill now have the time they claimed they lacked to address the debt ceiling through standalone reconciliation, and all the tools to do it. They cannot invent another crisis and ask for my help.”

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Republicans want Democrats to use a cumbersome process called reconciliation, which they are deploying to push through a sweeping social-spending bill that enacts most of Biden’s economic agenda. 

Reconciliation bypasses the filibuster rule, which the minority party can use to block most other legislation. That approach to resolve the debt limit has been rejected by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Schumer has sought a swifter process if Republicans would have simply allowed a vote for Democrats to approve a House-passed debt suspension until December 2022. 

The House interrupted its recess on Tuesday to return to Washington and give final congressional approval to the bill. It remained unclear why it wasn’t signed until Thursday. 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki had told reporters Wednesday, “as soon as it comes to the White House, the President will sign it. And we’ll -- we’ll keep you up to date.”

(Updates with bill signed two days after final passage, in last two paragraphs.)

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