Federal Shutdown Averted; Infrastructure, Debt Limit Pending

Waiting until the final hours of Fiscal Year 2021, the United States Congress cleared a continuing resolution Thursday to keep the federal government running until at least December 3. The House and Senate still have not approved raising the debt ceiling, and the House has yet to act on the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure measure.

Congress has not cleared for the president’s signature any of the 12 regular appropriations bills that fund the federal government. Without a continuing resolution, much of the federal government would have shutdown beginning Friday, October 1. The federal government operates on an October-September fiscal year.

The Senate stripped an increase to the debt limit from the original continuing resolution after Republican objections. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned Congress that her department will run out of funds by October 18 to pay debt already incurred. Yellen testified Wednesday before the House Financial Services Committee that a default would be “catastrophic for the economy and for individual families.”

A default would tank markets and the economy and delay payments to millions of Americans, such as Social Security and child tax credits. Interest rates would increase substantially on things such as car loans and credit cards. Since 1960, Congress has adjusted the debt limit 78 times.

Similarly, the House also has yet to take up the Senate-passed $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. That bill would extend the authorization for surface transportation programs and invest significantly more funds in transportation, water, wastewater, and broadband projects.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) reiterated that she plans for the House to vote on the infrastructure bill before surface transportation programs expire at midnight Thursday. However, intraparty disagreements over when to pass the infrastructure legislation vis-à-vis the more massive reconciliation measure has kept the speaker from bringing either to the floor.