An American flag flies outside the dome of the United States Capitol in Washington, United States, January 15, 2020. REUTERS / Tom Brenner / File Photo

WASHINGTON, Sept.20 (Reuters) – Top Democrats in the U.S. Congress said on Monday they would aim to continue funding the government and increase its borrowing power in a single bill in the coming days, staging a showdown with the Republicans who have sworn not to approve more debt.

Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the bill, which must be passed before October 1 to avoid the third partial government shutdown during the past decade, would also suspend the country’s borrowing limit until after the 2022 elections that will determine which party controls Congress.

Senate Republicans oppose any increase in federal borrowing power. Schumer and Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell both used the word “catastrophic” to describe the potential economic and financial fallout from a failure to increase the limit, but McConnell said Republicans would not support the increase. of the limit without reducing expenses.

Senate Democrat No.2 Dick Durbin told reporters he was concerned about the possibility of a historic US debt default.

“I know Senator McConnell, when making these statements, tends to ignore the consequences,” Durbin said.

Schumer and Pelosi said in a statement that the government’s interim funding will extend until December 31, giving lawmakers more time to pass supply bills through September 30, 2022.

The measure would also provide funds to deal with recent natural disasters, including flooding and wildfires in many parts of the United States. It would also contain money to help resettle recent Afghan evacuees.

With the debt limit battle possibly preventing passage of the multi-pronged bill, some experts have expressed hope that a stand-alone debt limit bill could be crafted, possibly winning. be the backing of Republicans with future deficit reduction or debt limit restructuring measures.

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee with oversight of government spending, told reporters that 60 out of 100 votes are needed in this chamber to advance legislation and with Republicans in opposition, there were probably no votes to adopt the combined measures. .

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Leahy said.

“BIPARTISAN RESPONSIBILITY”

Republicans did not appear to have agreed on how they would react to the combined legislation.

Republican Senator John Kennedy, of the hurricane-stricken state of Louisiana, said he would likely vote for a combined government funding and debt relief measure if it included disaster relief.

But Kennedy predicted that such a move wouldn’t garner enough Republican support to allow a procedural vote, saying a combined bill “was going to fall like a fat guy on a swing.”

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley said his party could avoid blame for a failed vote on the debt ceiling and public funding, if Democrats seek unanimous consent to pass the measures by simple majority, skipping the l ‘procedural step which requires a qualified majority of 60 votes.

“Republicans don’t want to shut down government. So go ahead with 50 votes. You don’t have to have 60 votes, ”Grassley told reporters.

So far, Democrats have rejected McConnell’s suggestion that the debt limit should be passed through a budget reconciliation bill that Democrats would pass without Republican support as part of a special procedure.

They insist that raising the debt limit must remain a bipartisan effort.

“Anyone who says this is the Democrats’ debt is not talking about facts, they are talking about fiction. Both sides have a responsibility to pay off the debt we have already incurred,” Schumer told the Senate.

President Joe Biden has expressed support for the Democrats’ strategy.

“It’s a bipartisan responsibility, as it was under my predecessor,” Biden said on Twitter. “To block it would be inexcusable.”

After Schumer’s intervention, McConnell reiterated his opposition to increasing the debt ceiling.

“Since the Democrats have decided to go it alone, they will not get the Republicans’ help in raising the debt ceiling,” McConnell said. He was referring to Biden’s $ 3.5 trillion national investment program that Democrats aim to push Republicans’ objections through reconciliation.

Democrats have supported raising the debt ceiling three times under the administration of Republican President Donald Trump.

The current debt ceiling is $ 28.4 trillion.

Reporting by Richard Cowan, Doina Chiacu Susan Cornwell and David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone, Chris Reese, David Gregorio and Aurora Ellis

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