On Wednesday, the United States House approved a bill that provides for a two-year increase in the so-called “debt ceiling”, i.e. the amount of money that the state can borrow on the markets to finance its activities and which must be periodically authorized by Congress.
The approval is not definitive because the law still needs to be approved by the Senate, but this last step is considered rather obvious. However, there is little time: the law must in fact be approved by June 5, the date that the US Treasury secretary Janet Yellen has set as an indicative limit before the United States breaches the “debt ceiling” and goes into default, i.e. are no longer able to repay their creditors: default would make it impossible for the US state to pay salaries and all other public expenses, and would cause a serious loss of confidence in the US economy on the markets.
Normally the raising of the “debt ceiling” is approved without major problems, but this year (as already in some other cases in the past) the Republican Party which controls the Chamber had decided to transform what would have been a normal control function of Congress into a political weapon against President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party.
For months, Joe Biden’s administration had rejected any negotiations, saying that the debt ceiling had to be raised without conditions. Then, as the deadline approached, Biden found himself forced to negotiate with Kevin McCarthy, the Republican Speaker of the House. An agreement was reached only on Saturday 27 May, and provides that the United States can borrow up to 31.4 trillion dollars, up to January 2025, in exchange for public spending cuts of 1.5 billion dollars over the course of the next ten years.
That an agreement would be reached in the House was by no means a given: here the Republicans have a majority of nine votes, and several exponents of the more radical fringes of the party had made it clear that they were ready to send the country into default if their conditions were not met. accept. In the end, the agreement was approved in the House with 314 votes in favor, including 165 from Democrats and 149 from Republicans. However, there were defections from both parties: 71 Republicans and 46 Democrats voted against. The votes against within the Democratic Party came above all from the more progressive parliamentarians, according to whom Biden would have given in too much to the opposition’s demands to favor a compromise.
Now the raising of the “debt ceiling” must also be approved by the Senate, but here the situation seems decidedly less complicated than in the Chamber. Democrats have a one-vote majority (but in the event of a tie, the vice president, Democrat Kamala Harris, can also vote), and Republicans said they were largely in favor of voting for the agreement. According to Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the discussion and eventual approval could take place on Thursday or Friday.