Washington: As US lawmakers raced to prevent a catastrophic default, the House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed a bill to suspend the country’s debt limit through January 1, 2025.
The debt ceiling is a spending limit set by US Congress which determines how much money the government can borrow. Failure to raise it beyond the current cap of roughly $31.4 trillion by June could result in the US defaulting on its debt.
That would mean the government could not borrow any more money or pay all of its bills and also threaten to wreak havoc on the global economy, affecting prices and mortgage rates in other countries.
On Wednesday night, 149 Republicans and 165 Democrats voted for the bill and 71 Republicans and 46 Democrats voted against it, reports CNN.
The final tally for the vote was 314 to 117.
The legislation bill will next need to be passed by the Senate before it can be sent to President Joe Biden to be signed into law.
In the Senate, any one lawmaker can delay a swift vote and it is not yet clear when a final vote will take place.
Lawmakers are racing the clock to avert a first-ever default ahead of June 5, the date the Treasury Department has said it will no longer be able to pay all of the country’s obligations in full and on time, a scenario that could trigger global economic catastrophe.
Taking to Twitter late Wednesday, President Biden said: “Tonight, the House took a critical step forward to prevent a first-ever default and protect our country’s hard-earned and historic economic recovery.
“I have been clear that the only path forward is a bipartisan compromise that can earn the support of both parties. This agreement meets that test.
“I urge the Senate to pass it as quickly as possible so that I can sign it into law, and our country can continue building the strongest economy in the world.”
On his part, Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said: “I have been thinking about this day since before my vote for speaker because I knew the debt ceiling was coming. I wanted to make history.”
Suspending the debt limit through 2025 takes the threat of default off table until after the presidential election, CNN reported.
In addition to addressing the debt limit, the bill caps non-defence spending, expands work requirements for some food stamp recipients and claws back some Covid-19 relief funds, among other policy provisions.
The bipartisan debt limit deal struck between the White House and House Republicans was announced over the weekend.
In a letter to the House Speaker on Tuesday night, the Congressional Budget Office said that the bill would reduce budget deficits by $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.
If the bill is enacted, “mandatory spending would, on net, decrease by $10 billion, and revenues would, on net, decrease by $2 billion over the 2033 period”, the CBO wrote in the letter.
“As a consequence, interest on the public debt would decline by $188 billion,” it said, adding that discretionary spending would be reduced by a projected $1.3 trillion over the 2024-2033 period.