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With 2 days until deadline to raise debt limit, Congress not in session, Biden not negotiating

The Democratic Congress passed a year-long, $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill in December, which raised domestic and defense spending but didn't address the debt ceiling.

Published: January 17, 2023 4:30pm

Updated: January 19, 2023 6:43pm

The U.S. Congress is out of session with just two days to go before the Jan. 19 deadline for the federal government to raise the $31.4 trillion debt limit.

The U.S. Treasury Department estimated that the debt ceiling will be reached on Jan. 19 and the department would have to take "extraordinary measures," if Congress hasn't taken action. 

The new, Democrat-led Senate's district work period runs from Jan. 4-Jan. 20, according to the legislative calendar. The Senate isn't scheduled to return until Feb. 6. The GOP-led House is out of session until Jan. 24.

In December, the Democratic Congress, with the help of votes from Republicans in the 50-50 Senate, passed a year-long, $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill that didn't address the debt ceiling. The bill raised domestic and defense spending above fiscal year 2022 levels through the rest of fiscal year 2023.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, whose party was still in the House minority at the time, had been advocating a short-term funding bill to give the GOP-led House a chance to negotiate a larger spending package in January. Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell kept the door open to a long-term funding bill, despite the GOP winning the House majority, and 18 Senate Republicans ultimately voted in favor of the bill.

Conservative Republicans have called for spending cuts in exchange for voting to increase the debt limit, but President Biden and his allies in Congress want a clean increase to the debt ceiling without any strings attached. 

McCarthy said he's ready to sit down with Biden to discuss the issue, but the White House told reporters on Tuesday that Biden isn't open to negotiations.

"There's going to be no negotiation over it," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday, emphasizing that the White House wants Congress to raise the debt ceiling "without conditions." 

If Biden doesn't negotiate, the House GOP might withhold votes to raise the debt ceiling, which eventually could lead the U.S. to default on its debt. It is unclear if lawmakers will return from recess early to hash out an agreement on the debt ceiling. 

"There will be Republicans who will say we need to reform, we need to use this as a vehicle to try to put some limits on our spending, on our debt and our deficits," said Utah Republican Rep. Chris Stewart Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation." "And I am one of them, and there are many others who will be."

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