Maine’s senators voted to approve a debt ceiling deal late Thursday that President Joe Biden is expected to now sign, averting a U.S. default that would disrupt the global economy.
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, the top Republican on the Senate’s budget committee, and U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, were among the 63 senators to vote in favor of the bill that suspends the debt ceiling until 2025.
The 36 votes against it came mostly from Republicans, with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, and four Democrats — Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and John Fetterman of Pennsylvania — joining the GOP group in opposing the measure.
“Maine people pay their bills when they are due — the federal government should be no different,” King said in a statement. “…There are some compromises in the bill that I wish weren’t necessary, but that is inevitable in a divided government. The most important part of the agreement we passed today is that it averts a catastrophic default that would raise prices, cost countless jobs, and devastate the global economy.”
Collins said Friday defaulting “would have had catastrophic consequences for our economy, for people who rely on important federal programs and for America’s standing in the world.”
“It was critical for Congress to act to avoid it. That’s why I voted in support of the House-passed bill,” Collins said in a statement. “I am pleased that Senate leaders acted to improve the agreement by responding to two concerns several of us raised.”
Those two concerns from Collins and a group of GOP hawks were assuaged after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky pledged to consider a dozen appropriations bills before January and to take up a supplemental spending measure, including funds for Ukraine.
The debt ceiling deal imposes automatic 1 percent cuts if Congress fails to approve the annual appropriations bills.
The debt limit deal caps national defense spending in fiscal year 2024 at $886 billion, a 3.2 percent bump, and then bumps up military spending 1 percent in fiscal year 2025 to $895 billion.
In a floor speech earlier Thursday, Collins called the defense spending figure in the bill “completely inadequate” and said it did not keep pace with inflation.
Biden said he will sign the bill as soon as possible, and he is giving a speech to the nation about the issue at 7 p.m. Friday. Lawmakers were facing a Monday deadline to avoid the Treasury Department defaulting on debt obligations, with the national debt currently at $31.4 trillion.
Overall, the 99-page bill that Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy put together last weekend restricts spending for the next two years, suspends the debt ceiling into January 2025 and changes various policies, including imposing new work requirements for older Americans receiving food aid and greenlighting a natural gas line in Appalachia that many Democrats oppose.
It includes funding for defense and veterans, cuts back new money for Internal Revenue Service agents and rejects Biden’s call to roll back Trump-era tax breaks on corporations and the wealthy to help cover the nation’s deficits.
The House overwhelmingly approved the bill Wednesday, with Maine’s two Democrats, U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden, each voting in favor of it.