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S. 1301: [Increase of Public Debt Limit]

Oct 7, 2021 at 8:11 p.m. ET. On the Motion to Concur in the Senate.

This was a vote on the Senate proposal to increase the public debt limit in an amount, $480 billion, that was projected by the Treasury Department to be the amount of debt needed through early December 2021 to not reach the public debt limit.

The Treasury Department had forecast that the federal government would hit the debt limit, i.e. run out of money to pay back existing debts, government salaries, and other pre-existing obligations, on October 18, 2021 (about a week after this vote), creating the potential for a severe economic crisis. Failure to pay back existing debts risked a global loss of confidence in the U.S. economy and hampering the U.S.'s ability to borrow in the future, potentially leading to a recession. As of just prior to the end of the Trump Administration, the federal government ran a yearly deficit of $3.8 trillion, and spending levels have been similar in 2021 because spending in the first nine months of a president's term is largely determined by legislation the previous year.

Although Republicans likely oppose an economic catastrophe, votes on raising the public debt limit are typically used by Republicans as leverage on other issues, by grinding the congressional agenda to a halt while the potential for economic crisis looms. Republicans said they opposed raising the public debt limit so long as Democrats were preparing a very large social spending package in the "budget reconciliation" process. But these issues are economically unrelated. The increase in the public debt limit proposed in this bill was required to avoid an economic crisis due to deficit spending enacted and supported by Republicans in prior years, regardless of any future legislation.

Republicans filibustered the bill, but in a vote an hour earlier, 11 Republicans joined with Democrats to break the filibuster, knowing that the bill would pass and the economic crisis would be averted. Those Republicans then voted against the bill here.

This vote was related to a bill introduced by Sen. Sherrod Brown [D-OH] on April 22, 2021, S. 1301: [Increase of Public Debt Limit].


All Votes R D I
Yea 51%
Nay 49%
Not Voting

Motion Agreed to. Simple Majority Required. Source:

The Yea votes represented 56% of the country’s population by apportioning each state’s population to its voting senators.

Ideology Vote Chart

Democrat - Yea Republican - Nay
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Statistically notable votes are the votes that are most surprising, or least predictable, given how other members of each voter’s party voted and other factors.

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Study Guide

How well do you understand this vote? Use this study guide to find out.

You can find answers to most of the questions below here on the vote page. For a guide to understanding the bill this vote was about, see here.

What was the procedure for this vote?

  1. What was this vote on?
  2. Not all votes are meant to pass legislation. In the Senate some votes are not about legislation at all, since the Senate must vote to confirm presidential nominations to certain federal positions.

    This vote is related to a bill. However, that doesn’t necessarily tell you what it is about. Congress makes many decisions in the process of passing legislation, such as on the procedures for debating the bill, whether to change the bill before voting on passage, and even whether to vote on passage at all.

    You can learn more about the various motions used in Congress at If you aren’t sure what the Senate was voting on, try seeing if it’s on this list.

  3. What is the next step after this vote?
  4. Take a look at where this bill is in the legislative process. What might come next? Keep in mind what this specific vote was on, and the context of the bill. Will there be amendments? Will the other chamber of Congress vote on it, or let it die?

    For this question it may help to briefly examine the bill itself.

What is your analysis of this vote?

  1. What trends do you see in this vote?
  2. Members of Congress side together for many reasons beside being in the same political party, especially so for less prominent legislation or legislation specific to a certain region. What might have determined how the roll call came out in this case? Does it look like Members of Congress voted based on party, geography, or some other reason?

  3. How did your senators vote?
  4. There are two votes here that should be more important to you than all the others. These are the votes cast by your senators, which are meant to represent you and your community. Do you agree with how your senators voted? Why do you think they voted the way they did?

    If you don’t already know who your Members of Congress are you can find them by entering your address here.

  5. How much of the United States population is represented by the yeas?
  6. GovTrack displays the percentage of the United States population represented by the yeas on some Senate votes just under the vote totals. We do this to highlight how the people of the United States are represented in the Senate. Since each state has two senators, but state populations vary significantly, the individuals living in each state have different Senate representation. For example, California’s population of near 40 million is given the same number of senators as Wyoming’s population of about 600,000.

    Do the senators who voted yea represent a majority of the people of the United States? Does it matter?

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