Senator Chuck Schumer
Senator Chuck Schumer speaks to reporters after passage of H.R. 3746 in the Senate (Video still)

The Unit­ed States Sen­ate vot­ed tonight to go along with the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in pass­ing leg­is­la­tion nego­ti­at­ed by Speak­er Kevin McCarthy and Pres­i­dent Biden that rais­es the debt ceil­ing in return for impos­ing Repub­li­can-demand­ed aus­ter­i­ty mea­sures on the coun­try’s essen­tial pub­lic services.

The so-called Fis­cal Respon­si­bil­i­ty Act received yea votes from almost two-thirds of the Sen­ate, pass­ing 63–36. Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Eliz­a­beth War­ren, Jeff Merkley, Ed Markey, and John Fet­ter­man vot­ed no, along with inde­pen­dent Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders of Ver­mont and thir­ty-one Repub­li­can senators.

Pas­sage of H.R. 3746 averts what would have been a self-inflict­ed finan­cial cat­a­stro­phe brought about by mil­i­tant right wing Repub­li­cans obsessed with dis­man­tling the coun­try’s social con­tract, but at a steep cost to the Amer­i­can peo­ple. The deal con­tains a par­tic­u­lar­ly dis­gust­ing give­away to West Vir­gini­a’s fos­sil fuels lov­ing Joe Manchin, who secured a pro­vi­sion requir­ing the con­struc­tion of a pol­lut­ing pipeline in his home state that has been held up in the courts.

Pres­i­dent Biden plans to sign it into law quick­ly, like­ly some­time tomorrow.

The Depart­ment of the Trea­sury has pre­vi­ous­ly said that its “extra­or­di­nary mea­sures” would be exhaust­ed as of June 5th, which is this com­ing Mon­day, so Biden had implored Con­gress to get him the bill by the end of this week, which it has now done. This neces­si­tat­ed the Sen­ate’s rejec­tion of a num­ber of amend­ments, sev­er­al of which were pro­posed by hard­line ultra MAGA senators.

The roll call from the Pacif­ic North­west was as follows:

Vot­ing Yea to pass the bill: Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Pat­ty Mur­ray and Maria Cantwell (WA), Ron Wyden (OR), Jon Tester (MT); Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Lisa Murkows­ki (AK)

Vot­ing Nay to defeat the bill: Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tor Jeff Merkley (OR), Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors Mike Crapo and Jim Risch (ID), Steve Daines (MT); Dan Sul­li­van (AK)

Mitch McConnell pro­vid­ed sev­en­teen Repub­li­can votes for the bill, includ­ing his own. Chuck Schumer deliv­ered forty-six votes, which is more than twice as many.

“Tonight, Sen­a­tors from both par­ties vot­ed to pro­tect the hard-earned eco­nom­ic progress we have made and pre­vent a first-ever default by the Unit­ed States,” said Pres­i­dent Biden. “Togeth­er, they demon­strat­ed once more that Amer­i­ca is a nation that pays its bills and meets its oblig­a­tions — and always will be. I want to thank Leader Schumer and Leader McConnell for quick­ly pass­ing the bill.”

“No one gets every­thing they want in a nego­ti­a­tion, but make no mis­take: this bipar­ti­san agree­ment is a big win for our econ­o­my and the Amer­i­can people.”

“It pro­tects the core pil­lars of my Invest­ing in Amer­i­ca agen­da that is cre­at­ing good jobs across the coun­try, fuel­ing a resur­gence in man­u­fac­tur­ing, rebuild­ing our infra­struc­ture, and advanc­ing clean energy.”

“It safe­guards peo­ples’ health care and retire­ment secu­ri­ty, pro­tect­ing bedrock pro­grams like Social Secu­ri­ty, Medicare, and Med­ic­aid. It pro­tects vital invest­ments in hard­work­ing fam­i­lies that help make our coun­try strong—from child care and edu­ca­tion, to pub­lic safe­ty and Meals on Wheels. It pro­tects my stu­dent debt relief plan for hard­work­ing bor­row­ers. And it hon­ors America’s sacred oblig­a­tion to our vet­er­ans by ful­ly fund­ing vet­er­ans’ med­ical care.”

“Our work is far from fin­ished, but this agree­ment is a crit­i­cal step for­ward, and a reminder of what’s pos­si­ble when we act in the best inter­ests of our coun­try. I look for­ward to sign­ing this bill into law as soon as pos­si­ble and address­ing the Amer­i­can peo­ple direct­ly tomorrow.”

“When the full faith and cred­it of the Unit­ed States was on the line, Pres­i­dent Biden answered the call and deliv­ered a his­toric bipar­ti­san bud­get agree­ment for the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” said Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee Chair Jaime Harrison.

“In a tes­ta­ment to his expe­ri­ence and lead­er­ship, Pres­i­dent Biden suc­cess­ful­ly nego­ti­at­ed a deal that pro­tect­ed key pri­or­i­ties and the his­toric eco­nom­ic gains we have made over the last two years.”

“This agree­ment pro­tects the health care of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans, strength­ens our eco­nom­ic recov­ery, pre­vents cru­el cuts to the pro­grams that mil­lions of Amer­i­can fam­i­lies rely on, and ful­ly funds med­ical care for veterans.”

“Pres­i­dent Biden was elect­ed in part because of his abil­i­ty to work across the aisle and get things done for the Amer­i­can peo­ple, and, once again, he deliv­ered. He did his job to ensure Amer­i­ca avoids an unprece­dent­ed default that could have led to a reces­sion, mil­lions of jobs lost, dev­as­tat­ed retire­ment accounts, and high­er bor­row­ing costs for Amer­i­can families.”

“While these nego­ti­a­tions made clear that MAGA Repub­li­cans will stop at noth­ing – includ­ing hold­ing our econ­o­my hostage – to enact their unpop­u­lar and dan­ger­ous agen­da, the Amer­i­can peo­ple also now see that Pres­i­dent Biden and Democ­rats will con­tin­ue to find a way for­ward and nev­er stop work­ing to deliv­er for them.”

That hostage-tak­ing was cit­ed by our very own Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray in her com­ments on the Sen­ate floor as very destruc­tive for the country.

“Instead of work­ing through the bud­get and appro­pri­a­tions process — as we do every year — to craft our nation’s bud­get and deter­mine how we spend mon­ey, House Repub­li­cans just decid­ed they would threat­en to tank our econ­o­my and force the U.S. into default to extract par­ti­san con­ces­sions,” stat­ed Sen­a­tor Mur­ray. “We have heard House Repub­li­cans lead­ers and even the leader of the Repub­li­can Par­ty talk open­ly about tak­ing our econ­o­my and the Amer­i­can peo­ple ‘hostage.’”

“For House Repub­li­cans, this was nev­er tru­ly about the debt any­way,” said Mur­ray. “Repub­li­cans added tril­lions to the debt under Pres­i­dent Trump through tax give­aways for bil­lion­aires and giant cor­po­ra­tions. But they refuse to even talk about ask­ing bil­lion­aires to pay at least as much in tax­es as a fire­fight­er or a nurse.”

And sad­ly, thanks to Mur­ray’s col­leagues Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sine­ma, Democ­rats failed to rescind the Trump tax cuts, per­ma­nent­ly abol­ish the debt ceil­ing, or lock in the COVID-era improve­ments to the coun­try’s social con­tract that Con­gress made as part of the Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan, like the child tax cred­it. Democ­rats had con­trol of both cham­bers last bien­ni­um, but could not prop­er­ly use those majori­ties due to Manchin and Sine­ma’s per­fid­i­ous behavior.

Sen­a­tor Jeff Merkley of Ore­gon was one of the few Democ­rats who refused to back the deal, con­clud­ing that it would be against his val­ues to do so.

“Since the text of this leg­is­la­tion was released, I have immersed myself in the details and lis­tened care­ful­ly to everyone’s points of view,” said Merkley pri­or to the floor debate. “I appre­ci­ate the diver­si­ty of opin­ion with­in the Con­gress and with­in my own cau­cus. Still, I can­not in good con­science vote for this bill.”

“This bill breaks with recent, estab­lished, and bipar­ti­san prac­tice, cut­ting pro­grams that are the foun­da­tions for thriv­ing fam­i­lies — includ­ing health care, hous­ing, and education—to increase mil­i­tary spending.”

“In addi­tion, this bill sets two tru­ly hor­rif­ic prece­dents: It com­plete­ly exempts the Moun­tain Val­ley Pipeline (MVP) from fol­low­ing envi­ron­men­tal law, even though the com­pa­ny build­ing the pipeline is an egre­gious vio­la­tor that has racked up more than five hun­dred vio­la­tions in two states.”

“In addi­tion, the bill dic­tates the court juris­dic­tion for the MVP should there be addi­tion­al legal chal­lenges. This pro­found­ly under­mines the integri­ty of our judi­cia­ry. For Con­gress to — by law — move a court case from one juris­dic­tion to anoth­er, to pro­vide a spe­cial favor to a pow­er­ful cor­po­ra­tion, is fun­da­men­tal­ly cor­rupt. This is a line we should nev­er cross. The pipeline itself is an assault against a sus­tain­able plan­et. We must rec­og­nize that fos­sil gas is just as dam­ag­ing as coal. Pre­tend­ing oth­er­wise is lead­ing us to cli­mate catastrophe.”

“Final­ly, this bill con­tains changes to bedrock envi­ron­men­tal law that will allow fos­sil fuel com­pa­nies to evade respon­si­bil­i­ty and accountability.”

“It allows com­pa­nies to write their own envi­ron­men­tal impact eval­u­a­tions. It changes the stan­dards for accept­able sci­ence and data. It exempts entire pipeline projects from fed­er­al envi­ron­men­tal protections.

“I ful­ly rec­og­nize that a debt default would be a dis­as­ter for work­ing fam­i­lies and must nev­er be allowed to hap­pen. It’s uncon­scionable that MAGA Repub­li­cans and Speak­er McCarthy were will­ing to enter­tain dri­ving the econ­o­my over the default cliff at all. How­ev­er, yield­ing to this black­mail only guar­an­tees that Repub­li­cans will use the debt lim­it to hold Amer­i­ca hostage time and time again.”

“We must end the hostage-tak­ing, either by pass­ing leg­is­la­tion like my Pro­tect Our CREDIT Act or through the Pres­i­dent exer­cis­ing his exec­u­tive pow­er, such as the use of the 14th Amendment.”

“In sum, there is vir­tu­al­ly noth­ing in this bill that match­es what the peo­ple of Ore­gon care about, and a whole lot of stuff that will hurt them. I can’t throw them under the bus. I can­not in good con­science sup­port this legislation.”

We agree with Sen­a­tor Merkley’s assess­ment of this bill and thank him for vot­ing no. There at least need­ed to be some Demo­c­ra­t­ic nays on this roll call, and the good peo­ple of the Pacif­ic North­west who oppose the cor­rup­tion and rot con­tained in this leg­is­la­tion were rep­re­sent­ed thanks to Sen­a­tor Merkley.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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