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WASHINGTON – The Senate Thursday night ended a partisan stalemate over the nation’s debt ceiling that had threatened to roil global financial markets, agreeing to a temporary extension that portends another showdown in early December.
By a 50-48 vote, the Democratic-led Senate approved the two-month extension. Some Senate Republicans joined Democrats in ending a filibuster, allowing the bill to reach the floor and pass with a simple majority.
The Senate stand-off was the biggest hurdle to prevent a default that economists warn would cause havoc to the global economy. The House, which is out of session next week, still needs to pass the measure before the U.S. Treasury defaults on Oct. 18. That vote is expected next week.
The vote ended days of drama where Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell had vowed not to help Democrats solve the crisis because they controlled all levers of government and had not included GOP lawmakers enough in discussions over spending bills.
"We pulled our country back from the cliff’s edge that Republicans tried to push us over,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said members could be called back early for a vote. President Joe Biden has indicated he would sign an extension if one reaches his desk.
“The president looks forward to signing legislation to raise the debt limit when it is passed by Congress," White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday.
The deal merely postpones a long-term decision on the debt limit. Congress would need to act on another debt limit solution by December to avoid another risk of default.
If the United States defaults on its debt for the first time, the results could lead to a global recession, Treasury officials and experts said. A tanked market would hurt 401(k)s and other investments. A debt ceiling standoff in 2013 cost the economy 1% in GDP.
Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., backed down from his threat to block any action on the debt ceiling.
McConnell offered to extend the limit into December if Democrats put a precise dollar figure on how much they want to raise the limit. Republicans had threatened to filibuster Democrats' effort to suspend the limit through Dec. 16, 2022.
Thursday, McConnell lauded the short-term extension from the Senate floor.
"The pathway our Democratic colleagues have accepted will spare the American people any near-term crisis," he said.
McConnell and Republicans had resisted helping Democrats pass an increase or suspension of the debt limit. McConnell said Democrats, who control the White House, House and Senate, refused to negotiate with Republicans on spending proposals – such as a budget bill with trillions of dollars for social programs that Democrats are ironing out – so they could raise the limit on borrowing on their own as well.
The Senate GOP leader pressed Democrats to pass the bill using reconciliation, a maneuver that would allow Democrats to approve the bill without Republican support. Democrats said this option would be cumbersome and lead to long debates.
Thursday, McConnell signaled he still wants the bill done through reconciliation. He said the short-term extension means "there will be no question" that lawmakers will have plenty of time to address the debt limit through that procedure.
Senate Democrats said Wednesday they would not bend in December to McConnell's demand.
"We're going to raise the debt ceiling, and we're going to go on and pass infrastructure," Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., said. "We're never going to do it through reconciliation."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Democrats announce deal with GOP to extend debt ceiling