By Susan Cornwell and Makini Brice WASHINGTON (Reuters) –U.S. Senate Democrats and Republicans sought to reach an agreement on Thursday to avert a debt crisis after Democrats showed openness to a Republican offer to allow an extension of the federal debt ceiling into December.
Democrats called off a Wednesday afternoon vote after the Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, floated the plan that would buy a couple of months to resolve the issue.
But a deal could just kick the can down the road until December, when Congress also faces a deadline for funding the government. Democrats also want to pass two massive spending bills that make up much of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda in the coming weeks.
Senator Dick Durbin, the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat, welcomed McConnell’s offer, saying it would provide additional time for Democrats to reach an internal agreement on Biden’s multitrillion-dollar social policy package and to pass a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.
“It was a reckless and irresponsible strategy which Senator McConnell finally realized,” Durbin told CNN. “So, he’s extended the debt ceiling till December. It still is not resolved as it should be.”
Without congressional action to raise the $28.4 trillion debt limit, the Treasury Department has forecast that it will run out of ways to pay all of its bills by Oct. 18. Republicans have blocked Democratic efforts to bring up legislation to suspend the cap.
McConnell suggested passing legislation to raise the debt limit by a fixed dollar amount, which he did not specify, until December.
That offer triggered hours of behind-the-scenes negotiations between the two sides than ran late into the night.