Markey, Warren vote 'no' on debt ceiling deal over changes to environmental laws and safety net programs

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey speaks at an event in Boston in April. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
U.S. Sen. Ed Markey speaks at an event in Boston in April. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The U.S. Senate passed a debt ceiling deal Thursday night, helping stave off an unprecedented financial default just a day after the House approved the same bill.

But not everyone was on board, including both U.S. senators for Massachusetts, who voted against the deal amid concerns over changes to environmental laws and social safety net programs.

Sen. Ed Markey said the bill would undermine environmental laws and "fast-track" fossil fuel projects.

"This legislation undermines bedrock environmental law and creates major new exemptions to the environmental permitting process, which will leave local, state, and Tribal leaders vulnerable and voiceless on polluting projects in their backyards," Markey said in a statement after the vote.

A provision in the bill places a strict timeline on environmental reviews: one year for most reviews, and two years for more complex projects. Supporters of the change say speeding up reviews means bringing online more sources of energy, both fossil fuel and renewables. However, critics say time limits could shortcut public participation, especially among marginalized groups.

Markey also decried new work restrictions for those seeking benefits from government programs like the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps. Specifically, the bill would require older people to meet the current policy's 80-hour training program, which critics say may cause some members of this new group to lose SNAP benefits.

Earlier this week, in an interview with The Hill, Sen. Elizabeth Warren expressed similar concerns to those expressed by Markey around the proposed changes to federal climate laws and new work requirements for social safety net programs.

A vocal proponent of student loan forgiveness, Warren also said she worried about the bill's provision around student debt repayment. The bill would end the pause on student loan payments by Sept. 1. The Biden administration had previously said loan repayments would resume in September, but the bill would prevent future extensions.

On Wednesday, the House pushed forward the compromise bill to the relief of many who worried the U.S. would miss the Monday, June 5 deadline, the date by which U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Congress needed to act keep the U.S. from defaulting on its debt. On Thursday, the bill cleared the Senate floor in a 63-36 vote. Now, it heads to the president's desk for his signature.


Vanessa Ochavillo Associate Producer
Vanessa Ochavillo is an associate producer for WBUR focused on digital news.



More from WBUR

Listen Live