The Senate on Thursday night moved toward final passage of bipartisan legislation that would suspend the debt ceiling and impose new spending limits.
The vote on the proposed changes — all of which were expected to fail — appeared to be the final step in a month of drama as lawmakers raced to pass legislation to President Biden and avoid a disastrous default. It followed closed-door meetings on Thursday to try to resolve a last-minute dispute over Pentagon funding.
“America can breathe a sigh of relief that we are avoiding default,” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said before the vote began.
Without input from the Senate, Mr. The vote began after a day of uncertainty as some Republicans complained that the deal — negotiated between Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy — would underfund the military and demanded assurances that their concerns would be addressed before it was passed.
By evening, Senate officials and South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a leading critic of the Pentagon spending levels, said leaders in both parties had negotiated enough convincing language for him and other defense hawks to support the bill. For final votes.
“It doesn’t completely fix this bill, but it’s a march in the right direction,” Mr. Graham said.
The debt ceiling deal, overwhelmingly approved by the House on Wednesday night, would freeze the $31.4 trillion debt ceiling until January 2025 while reducing spending on domestic programs.
It would increase Pentagon spending to $886 billion next year, a 3 percent increase, but GOP supporters noted that higher spending on the military would not keep pace with inflation.
“To my housemates, I can’t believe you did this,” said Mr. Graham said earlier in the day, blaming the architects of the move for downsizing the military at a time of growing threats from Russia and China. This budget is a win for China.
Mr. Graham and others insisted that, at the very least, Congress should pass an additional funding bill to increase spending later, even though it would reduce the savings Republicans hoped to achieve through their debt ceiling deal. .
“We know this budget is not enough to address the global threats we face,” said Senator Susan Collins, the senior Republican on the full Appropriations Committee. “An emergency escort should be on our way.”
Thursday morning Mr. Protests erupted soon after Schumer opened the Senate, warning that the chamber must move quickly and make no changes to the deal for Mr Biden’s signature by Monday. Before the June 5 so-called ex-date, Treasury Secretary Janet L. When Yellen spoke, she advised lawmakers not to get involved in the legislation.
“Time is a luxury we don’t have in the Senate if we want to prevent default,” Mr. Schumer said. “June 5 is just four days away. At this stage, unnecessary delay or last-minute hold-ups can be unnecessary and dangerous.
Even as the deal moved across the capital, the effects of the debt ceiling continued to pinch. The Treasury announced Thursday that it would delay auctions of three-month and six-month “bills” — short-term debt the government has no more room to borrow until the borrowing limit is suspended.
As part of an agreement to move forward with a final vote on the bill, several senators secured votes on the proposed changes. Mr. Schumer was determined to defeat them all, as any change would send the measure back to the House, where no action would occur before the default deadline.
“Any change that forces us to send this bill back to the House is absolutely unacceptable,” he said. “It almost guarantees default.”
Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, was among those voting Thursday to remove a provision from the law that would have expedited the approval of an oil pipeline in West Virginia.
“I support improving the permitting process for all energy projects,” said Mr. Cain said. “But Congress putting its thumb on the scale so that a particular program doesn’t have to conform to the same process as everyone else is unfair and opens the door to corruption.”
After driving much of the legislative agenda in the previous two years, the Senate Mr. Biden and Mr. McCarthy left negotiating the debt ceiling. Almost all Republican senators supported Mr. They signed a letter supporting McCarthy. As a result, senators have had little leverage in negotiations and are now forced to approve legislation they did not help craft. This frustrates some people.
Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, Mr. He praised McCarthy’s efforts, but said senators had no obligation to rubber-stamp the deal and had qualified prospects to change it.
“We are not a party to the agreement,” he said. “Why should we be bound by the strict terms of that treaty? The Senate has so far had no say in the process.
But Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, urged his fellow Republicans to support the plan.
“Last night, a majority of our House colleagues voted to uphold the agreement that Speaker McCarthy reached with President Biden,” he said. “In doing so, they took an urgent and important step in the right direction for the health of our economy and the future of our country.”
Joe Rennison Contributed reporting from New York.