With lawmakers from Pennsylvania to Washington sharply divided, the Senate is poised for a showdown that could end in an unprecedented default or government shutdown.
Battles over the debt ceiling and public funding have become an almost perennial tradition in Washington, especially when the President and Congress are at odds. This month – with a Democratic president, a narrowly Democratic-led House, and a divided Senate – those battles resumed.
On Tuesday, the House voted 220-211 to maintain government funding and increase the debt ceiling, allowing the United States to pay off its bondholders for a period of time. The Pennsylvania delegation was divided by party, with every Democrat voting to increase the limit and every Republican voting against.
The measure is now moving to the Senate, where Republicans have shown little interest in helping raise the ceiling – despite voting to do so two years ago.
“Not raising the debt ceiling would indeed be a disaster”, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., Said on Twitter this week, citing the 2019 comments from Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell. “Republicans need to start acting responsibly and making sure we pay our bills.”
What would happen if the ceiling was not raised? Before long, the US government could find itself unable to repay creditors as debts fall due, resulting in far-reaching economic effects and a blow to the willingness of lenders to give more. Experts quoted by the Washington Post said millions of jobs could be lost amid an ensuing economic crisis.
At the same time, the federal government could suffer a shutdown – a not uncommon event over the past decade – if funds are not approved to operate it. Financing and debt deadlines face Congress as a double threat.
None of the party representatives said they wanted this to happen. But some GOP lawmakers are at least maintaining their poker faces.
This week, a group of senators, including Senator Pat Toomey, R-Pa., Proposed a bill that would prioritize certain areas of government spending if the debt ceiling was exceeded. The bill, which was not passed, would seek to maintain funding for military, veterans and social security programs.
Its sponsors have made no secret of the bill’s partisan intentions, as they called on Democrats to pass any ceiling increase without GOP help.
“If they insist on taking this partisan path, Democrats should take full responsibility and use the procedural tools at their disposal to raise the debt ceiling on their own,” he added. said Toomey.
Senators said they expected a vote in the coming days.
Bill would restrict charter announcements
If you listen to the radio, chances are you’ve heard commercials that end with the line: “Paid with Pennsylvania taxpayer money.”
Advertisements for state services and programs have included the phrase since at least 2015, when a bill requiring approval became law. Now a state lawmaker is re-launching attempts to include the phrase in advertisements for charter schools – the state-funded private schools that aim to compete with the public school system.
“Curious about who pays for those big billboards and fancy charter school promotional material?” “ Representative Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, said Wednesday in a note to his colleagues. “You do!”
Schlossberg said charter schools appear to be “free” for students, whose parents may not be aware that public funds are paying for their services. He said he intends to propose a bill that would ban schools from using the language and require them to recognize their taxpayer-funded status.
A similar rule was included in a comprehensive charter school reform bill of 2017, but that bill was not passed in its final form despite passing through both houses of the General Assembly.
The GOP bets on “electoral integrity”
State Republicans are making the most of new efforts to subpoena 2020 voter records, including using the “Electoral integrity” push as a fundraising tool.
GOP leaders initially appeared reluctant to pursue a so-called election audit, a move pushed by former President Donald Trump and his allies, who claim the 2020 election was marred by fraud. Since lawmakers launched a wave of subpoenas for voter data this month, however, party officials appear to have recognized the power of the issue of electoral security.
Last week, the state’s official GOP Twitter account shared news of the subpoenas. Along with the story, the party account said: “You can help PA GOP #SecureTheVote by joining our Election Integrity Team! “
The link to join the team led to a GOP fundraising website.
Whatever lawmakers think of the election audit campaign, the issue has clearly sparked enthusiasm among some GOP activists. In early September, ProPublica reported a resurgence of interest in local Republican Party offices across the country, fueled in part by the belief that local officials can better monitor elections.
While the Pittsburgh-area GOP branches did not report a significant increase in interest, several party officers from central and eastern Pennsylvania County noted an increase in activism, a reported the media.
Ryan Brown covers statewide politics for the Ogden newspapers. He can be contacted at [email protected]