By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Senate could see a vote next week on raising Washington's borrowing authority and keeping the government funded, the chamber's No. 2 Democrat said on Wednesday, though Republicans warned that they would vote against the bill.
Senator Dick Durbin said the chamber sometime next week could take up the bill passed in a party-line House of Representatives vote. Senate Republicans are indicating they will sink the emergency legislation to suspend the $28.4 trillion federal debt ceiling.
Time is short as funding for federal agencies expires on Oct. 1 and the U.S. Treasury has warned that it could run out of money to pay the government's bills by some time in October, potentially triggering a historic default.
Republicans say they support additional spending to keep the government operating with the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year and to help communities recover from recent natural disasters.
But they have abandoned bipartisanship on debt limit increases, saying raising the nation's borrowing authority is Democrats' problem because they are seeking a $3.5 trillion spending plan to invest in expanded social services and address climate change.
Democrats note that they voted to raise the nation's debt limit during Republican Donald Trump's administration even though they opposed sharp tax cuts that added to the debt.
Durbin, speaking to reporters, did not say what Senate Democrats would do next if Republicans block the bill.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and many of his 49 colleagues have vowed to withhold their votes, which would mean that it likely would fall short of the 60 needed to clear the procedural hurdle.
Durbin said, "there comes a point where you have to accept responsibility" for avoiding a U.S. government default on its debt in coming weeks and provide temporary federal funding for the fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1 in order to avoid the third partial U.S. government shutdown in a decade.
Democrats argue that President Joe Biden's $3.5 trillion program will be paid for with tax hikes on the wealthy and corporations, which Republicans oppose.
Even as he withholds his support for raising the debt limit, McConnell told reporters that Democrats should not play "Russian roulette" with the U.S. economy, saying they have an obligation to pass a debt limit increase on their own.
Six former U.S. Treasury secretaries urged Congress in an open letter on Wednesday to raise the federal debt limit without delay, saying that a default would cause "serious economic and national security harm."
Meanwhile, Biden is set to meet on Wednesday with several Democratic lawmakers in an attempt to heal divisions over his $3.5 trillion "budget reconciliation" plan that Democrats aim to pass in coming weeks using special procedures to do it without any Republican support.
Moderate Democrats see the price tag as too high, while some progressives are threatening to hold up a bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill set for a Monday vote unless the $3.5 trillion bill is also nailed down.
Moderate Democratic Senators Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema and Jon Tester said they will be at the White House.
"I expect a good conversation, hopefully get to understand each other a little bit better and understand what the priorities are," Manchin told reporters in the U.S. Capitol.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pleaded for Republican help in passing a debt limit-government funding bill.
Citing an analysis by Moody's Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi, Schumer said a debt default could wipe out 6 million jobs from the U.S. economy, erase $15 trillion in household wealth and cause unemployment to soar to nearly 9%.
"Every American family will suffer from the Republican desire to play political games and send our nation into default," Schumer said.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan, Susan Cornwell, David Lawder and David Morgan; editing by Scott Malone, Diane Craft and Mark Porter)