Crisis Averted: Federal Government Pays America’s Bills

The House Just Passed a New Bill

( – Congress and the White House have been locked in a battle over the debt ceiling for weeks. That’s the amount of money the Treasury Department can borrow to pay the bills lawmakers have already approved. The debt ceiling dance is something modern administrations frequently have with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. It was increased during former President Donald Trump’s administration three times. From 2001 to 2016, Congress raised it 14 times.

This time around, Republicans wanted the White House to agree to radical spending cuts as they’re worried about the national debt. Democrats pushed back and demanded the GOP raise the debt ceiling to avoid defaulting on the nation’s bills. After weeks of wrangling, the two sides were finally able to come to an agreement they could both live with.

The Deal

President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) reached an agreement on the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023. On May 29, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) introduced the legislation in the House of Representatives.

According to a summary of the bill, it suspends the federal debt ceiling through January 1, 2025. The legislation also caps federal spending for fiscal years 2024 and 2025 at levels under the current spending. It also includes provisions to

  • provide funding for the Veterans Affairs Cost of War Toxic Exposures Fund (TEF);
  • fund the Department of Commerce Nonrecurring Expenses Fund;
  • rescind some funding to the IRS;
  • end the suspension of federal student loan payments;
  • expand work requirements for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); and
  • expedite some energy project permits.

The House of Representatives passed the legislation on Wednesday, May 31, with a 314-to-117 vote. An overwhelming bipartisan coalition of lawmakers voted to push the bill through, with 149 Republicans and 165 Democrats backing the final measure.

McCarthy called the bill’s passage a “major victory.” He said lawmakers were “finally bending the curve on discretionary spending” while raising “national defense and [ensuring] our veterans fully funded.”

Senate Passes Bill

On June 1, late at night, the Senate passed the legislation with a 63-to-36 vote. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the legislation was an “urgent and important step in the right direction,” applauding the spending cuts.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was happy the country avoided default, saying Americans could “breathe a sigh of relief.”

President Biden will now sign the bill, with just days to spare before the Treasury runs out of money. The president pointed out that neither side got everything they wanted but said it was a major win for Americans.

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