Debt Crisis Averted: U.S. House Votes to Punt to December After Senate Drama

The U.S. House has agreed to punt the debate over the federal government debt to December, setting up another clash between Republicans and Democrats just two months from now.

"It's about kitchen table, it's about our economy and the global economy, but it's also about our Constitution which says the full faith and credit of the United States should not be in doubt," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, told reporters Tuesday of the need to raise the debt limit. "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law shall not be questioned."

The 219-206 vote temporarily ends a drama-fueled week full of speculation over whether the narrow Democrat majority could stave off a potentially catastrophic debt cliff.

The vote officially increases the federal debt capacity by about $480 billion, which officials estimate will keep the government afloat through early December. Without that increase, the U.S. Treasury had estimated the United States stood to default on its debt for the first time ever in the coming week. A government default would have sent shockwaves through the U.S. and world economies, they predicted.

The vote also gives Democrats a chance to pivot back to other priorities that had been set aside until the debt limit was addressed.

Late last week, the U.S. Senate hashed out an agreement to temporarily lift the debt ceiling, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell describing the delay as an opportunity for Democrats to sort out a plan for approving a more permanent solution without bipartisan support.

McConnell has pointed to the $1 trillion infrastructure package and a separate expansion of the social safety net that could cost trillions—both key pieces of Biden's agenda—as the reason they won't support an additional increase. Democrats have argued that the debt limit, which was increased multiple times under Republican control during the Trump administration, traces back to policies approved under the former president.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, drew fire from Republicans who voted to raise the debt limit last week because he took to the floor to blast the GOP over the near crisis.

"Republicans played a dangerous and risky partisan game, and I am glad that their brinksmanship did not work," Schumer said shortly after the vote. "For the good of America's families, for the good of our economy, Republicans must recognize in the future that they should approach fixing the debt limit in a bipartisan way."

McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who offered the deal with Democrats after weeks of saying that Republicans wouldn't join the majority in lifting the debt limit, fired back in an angry letter to President Joe Biden, calling Schumer "childish."

"I will not provide such assistance again if your all-Democrat government drifts into another avoidable crisis," he wrote.

House approves debt ceiling increase
US President Joe Biden walks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as he departs the US Capitol after a caucus meeting in Washington, DC, on October 1, 2021. The unusual presidential visit to Capitol Hill followed weeks of trips by party leaders in the other direction to the White House as Biden tries to get two ambitious spending plans passed into law. The debt ceiling, which the House officially lifted on Tuesday, became a distraction from the Biden agenda debate in the past week. MANDEL NGAN / AFP/Getty Images