High-stakes is an understatement. Appropriations for the federal government are set expire at 11:59 p.m. ET tomorrow, September 30. If a bill isn’t passed by both chambers and signed by the President before then, the federal government will shut down amidst a resurging global pandemic.
The House passed legislation that would fund the government through December 3, but some Senate Republicans have expressed dissatisfaction that the bill also raises the debt limit (more on that later). Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is whipping his caucus to vote ‘no’ on the bill and urging Democrats to pass a continuing resolution that doesn’t include any debt ceiling provisions and raise the debt ceiling with no Republican votes in the partisan, reconciliation package.
Meanwhile, the House has wrapped up it’s committee work on the $3.5 trillion partisan, reconciliation package. Moderate Democratic senators are withholding their votes in hopes that they can lower the total price tag of the bill, while progressives remain firm that $3.5 trillion is the lowest acceptable number they will vote for. All Democratic Senators must be “on-board” for the bill to pass and only four Representatives can drop off in the House.
Provisions will likely come out of the bill and there’s a risk that affordable housing provisions could be on the chopping block. Please contact your Democratic representatives ASAP to urge them to keep the significant affordable housing provisions in the House bill in the final text, even if you’ve already done so before. The Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition has complied advocacy resources for this important moment.
Yesterday, the Department of the Treasury announced the U.S. will hit the debt ceiling by October 18, even after implementing extraordinary measures. Secretary Janet Yellen appeared before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs on Tuesday. During the hearing she reiterated the urgent need to raise or suspend the debt ceiling. Senators also questioned Secretary Yellen on the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, inflation and the overall economy.
If the debt ceiling provision gets decoupled from the federal government appropriations, there will be immense pressure to include it in the reconciliation bill and to pass the bill as soon as possible to avoid the U.S. defaulting on our debt and cause cascading, catastrophic, global financial consequences, including a lowering of the U.S.’s credit rating and increasing the rate at which we can borrow debt. The U.S. only ever defaulted on its debt once in 1979, despite standing on the precipice many times.
Finally, there’s the $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which already passed the Senate and has the votes to pass the House right now but has been held back as leverage for other must-pass legislation.