Live Updates: Biden speech: Biden declares ‘crisis averted’ in address to nation

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After weeks of political gridlock, tense negotiations and growing economic anxiety, the Senate gave final approval Thursday night to bipartisan legislation suspending the debt ceiling and imposing new spending limits, sending it to President Biden and ending the possibility of a calamitous government default.

The Senate’s approval on a 63-36 vote ended a political showdown that began as soon as Republicans won the House in November, vowing to use their new majority and threat of a defect to try to extract from it. expenditure and political concessions of Mr. Biden.

The president refused for months to commit to Speaker Kevin McCarthy, but finally did so after the California Republican got a GOP tax plan approved in April, spurring negotiations with the White House that produced the compromise Last weekend.

On Thursday night, Mr. Biden applauded his passage, promising to sign it as soon as possible and address the nation from the Oval Office on Friday evening.

“Tonight, senators from both parties voted to protect the economic progress we’ve made and avoid America’s first default,” he said. “No one gets everything they want in a negotiation, but make no mistake: This bipartisan deal is a huge win for our economy and the American people.”

The deal suspends the $31.4 trillion debt limit until January 2025, allowing the government to borrow unlimited sums to pay off its debts and ensuring another fight doesn’t occur before the next presidential election . It sets new spending levels that will be tested as Congress begins drafting its annual spending bills. Other policy changes on energy project permits and social benefit work requirements have also been included.

“We have saved the country from the scourge of default,” exulted Senator Chuck Schumer, D-New York and the majority leader, after the bill passed Congress.

The Senate vote came after an afternoon of closed-door talks to resolve a last-minute crisis over Pentagon funding, sparked by Republicans who said the debt limit package severely underfunded the military . Senate leaders resolved the dispute with a formal statement that the debt ceiling deal “does nothing to limit the ability of the Senate to appropriate supplemental emergency funds to ensure our military capabilities.”

The statement came after a day of uncertainty as a handful of Republican defense hawks complained that the deal — negotiated without Senate input — would not fund the military and demanded a commitment that their concerns were addressed before it could be approved. .

Senator Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, had been a leading critic of the Pentagon’s spending levels.Credit…Kenny Holston/The New York Times

In the evening, Senate officials and Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who had been a leading critic of the Pentagon’s spending levels, said the leadership’s pledge was enough to reassure him and other critics. to support the bill, paving the way for the final votes.

“It doesn’t completely fix this bill, but it’s a step in the right direction,” said Mr. Graham.

Democrats argued that the whole debt ceiling episode should never have happened and that Mr. McCarthy should not be rewarded for using the nation’s economy hostage to win spending cuts. But they said the prospect of a breach had to be avoided at all costs.

“The default on our national debt is unacceptable, unthinkable,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat, who accused Mr. McCarthy of a “careless and imprudent” act. “We can’t let that happen.”

As in the House, the Democrats took the measure to approval in the Senate, with 44 of them and two independents joining 17 Republicans in support; 31 Republicans, four Democrats and one independent voted no.

The debt ceiling deal, which was overwhelmingly approved by the House on Wednesday night, boosts Pentagon spending to $886 billion for next year, a 3 percent increase. But Republican supporters of the increased military spending pointed out that it would not keep pace with inflation and argued that the package fell well short of what was needed.

“To my colleagues in the House, I can’t believe you did this,” said Mr. Graham earlier in the day, accusing the move’s architects of undermining the military at a time of growing threats from Russia and China. “This budget is a win for China.”

Mr. At the very least, Graham and others insisted on a commitment that Congress would act later on an additional funding bill to shore up spending, even though that would reduce the savings Republicans hoped to achieve from their deal on the debt limit

“We know this budget is not adequate for the global threats we face,” said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee. “An emergency supplement must be coming our way.”

Opposition erupted almost immediately after Mr. Schumer opened the Senate Thursday morning by warning that the chamber needed to move quickly and not make changes to the deal to pass it for Biden’s signature before Monday. He warned lawmakers not to deal with it before the so-called X-date of June 5, when Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said the government would default without action from Congress.

“Time is a luxury the Senate doesn’t have if we want to avoid default,” Mr. Schumer. “June 5 is less than four days away. At this point, any unnecessary delay or any last-minute attraction would be an unnecessary and even dangerous risk.”

The Senate’s approval on a 63-36 vote ended a political showdown that began as soon as Republicans won the House in November.Credit…Haiyun Jiang for The New York Times

Even as the deal migrated through Capitol Hill, the effects of the debt limit continued to pinch. The Treasury Department announced Thursday that it would delay auctions of three- and six-month “notes,” short-term debt that the government no longer has room to take on until the debt limit is suspended.

As part of the agreement to move forward with final votes on the bill, several senators secured votes on the proposed changes. Mr. Schumer was determined to defeat them all, as any alteration would force the measure back to the House, where no action would likely occur before the default deadline.

“Any amendment to this bill that would force us to send it back to the House would be totally unacceptable,” he said. “It would almost guarantee default.”

After pushing through much of the legislative agenda in the previous two years, the Senate left debt limit negotiations to Mr. Biden and Mr. McCarthy, whose demand for spending cuts and other policy changes brought the country to the brink of default. Almost all Republican senators signed a letter supporting Mr. McCarthy in the effort. As a result, senators had little leverage in the negotiations and were forced to pass legislation they did not help shape. It was leaving some frustrated.

Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, praised the efforts of Mr. McCarthy, however, said senators were under no obligation to simply sign off on the deal and deserved opportunities to change it.

“We were not part of the deal,” he said. “Why should we be bound by the strict terms of this deal? The Senate has had no say so far in the process.”

But Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, urged his fellow Republicans to support the plan.

“Last night, an overwhelming majority of our colleagues in the House voted in favor of the agreement that President 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.”

Catie Edmondson, Jim Tankersley and Joe Rennison contributed reporting.

A correction has been made

June 1, 2023


An earlier version of an image caption with this article incorrectly identified the state represented by Senator John Thune. He’s from South Dakota, not Texas.

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