GOP senators postpone vote on debt limit bill over defense “cuts”

Washington, Jun 1 (EFE).- A group of Republican senators on Thursday is delaying the vote in the upper house of Congress on the bill to raise the US debt limit, which if it becomes law would prevent the country from defaulting on its payment obligations, in protest over what they are calling cuts in defense spending.

The debate in the Democrat-controlled Senate kicked off about 2:30 pm on Thursday and it had been expected that the text of the bill would be voted on after it was passed on Wednesday in the House of Representatives, where the GOP is in the majority, although it appears possible that the vote will now be delayed until Friday.

The draft bill is the result of an agreement announced on the weekend between President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to raise the debt ceiling.

The bill includes a slight reduction in spending for programs financed by Congress in non-defense ares, including healthcare, education and environmental protection, and it includes a 3 percent increase in defense spending, which is below the current rate of inflation and thus amounts – the recalcitrant Republicans assert – to a spending cut.

One of the Republican senators digging in his heels the most in rejecting the draft bill due to the defense “cuts” is South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a defense hawk who criticized his GOP House colleagues and McCarthy.

“To my House colleagues, I can’t believe you did this,” said Graham in his speech on the Senate floor on Thursday.

And, directing his remarks to McCarthy, Graham added: “To the Speaker, I know you’ve got a tough job. I like you. But the party of Ronald Reagan is dying. Don’t tell me that a defense budget that’s $42 billion below inflation fully funds the military.”

The long-time senator is threatening to block the vote on the measure in the full Senate unless he is offered guarantees that defense spending will be appropriately hiked.

Along with Graham, other conservative senators expressed themselves in a similar manner, with Tom Cotton of Arkansas presenting an amendment to up defense funding in the bill to increase the debt limit.

“The budget shouldn’t shape our defense needs. Our defense needs have to shape our budget,” Cotton said.

The US is approaching the June 5 deadline set by the Treasury where the government will run out of cash if raising the debt limit is not approved, a move that means increasing the amount of money the country is allowed to borrow to pay its outstanding and already-contracted financial obligations.

If approved, the bill would raise the debt limit to $31.4 trillion through Jan. 1, 2025, that is until after the November 2024 general election.

The leader of the Democratic majority in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, had promised on Thursday to facilitate the discussion of the draft bill and confirmed that the upper house would remain in session until the bill was passed.

“At this point, any needless delay or any last-minute holdups would be an unnecessary and even dangerous risk, and any change to this bill that forces us to send it back to the House would be entirely unacceptable. It would almost guarantee default,” Schumer said.

However, Graham made it clear that he was going to put the brakes on the process.

“Our military is weakening by the day. This budget that we’re about to pass makes every problem worse. I want to end the war in Ukraine by defeating Putin. If you don’t, he keeps going,” Graham said.

“And we’re going to have a conflict between NATO and Russia, and our troops will be involved if you don’t send a clear signal now. China will see this as an opportunity to leap into Taiwan,” Graham added, encouraging his fellow senators to remain in the upper chamber for as long as it takes to reach a compromise on defense spending.

EFE –/bp

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