Democratic congressional leaders signaled Sunday they’re willing to consider raising the federal debt limit during the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress, while both chambers of Congress remain safely in Democratic hands.
Dealing with the debt limit now instead of only a few weeks or days before the Treasury Department is projected to run out of borrowing room would be a break from Congress’ past pattern. However, it would allow Democrats to take away the ability of Republicans to leverage it over the next two-years if they win the House.
“We’ll see what they contend that they want to do. But our best shot I think is to do it now,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.
“Again, winning the Senate gave us a lot of leverage for how we go forward if we don’t do it in the lame duck. But my hope would be that we could get it done in the lame duck.”
“The debt ceiling, of course, is something that we have to deal with. And it’s something that we will look at over the next few weeks.”
– Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer (D.N.Y.).
In a separate appearance on CNN, Pelosi said Democrats were focused on making sure they won in Tuesday’s midterms and preparing for the lame duck “whether it’s debt ceiling, or whether it’s other legislation that is necessary for the people as we go forward.”
Fresh from declaring victory Saturday night for Senate Democrats, Chuck Schumer (D.N.Y.), was a little more cautious. Perhaps this was due to the political and time constraints his chamber would face in dealing with the debt limit.
“The debt ceiling, of course, is something that we have to deal with. And it’s something that we will look at over the next few weeks,” He said at a news conference New York City
One prominent Senate Democrat, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), came out in favor raising the limit sooner than later, writing in The New York Times Democrats should increase it “to block Republicans from taking our economy hostage next year.”
The choice for Democrats could be whether or not the House falls into the hands of Republicans, and by how much. Republicans would be able to block any increase or temporary suspension under GOP control if Biden and Senate Democrats agree to Republican demands. trimming Social Security or Medicare spending.
Similar moves in 2011 led to only moderately effective caps on annual defense and nondefense spending that Congress approves each fiscal year. However, the dispute led to First downgrade of U.S. Government debt ever.
A small GOP House majority may convince Democrats that the risk of another 2011-style standoff is low. The lame duck could then be used to wrap-up work on annual spending bills and a bill to codify rights to same-sex marriage.
To increase the debt ceiling using Democrat-only votes in lame duck, it would take a lot of valuable Senate floor time to both pass a budget bill and a spinoff filibusterproof debt limit bill.
Both bills will require Democrats to vote in the Senate a vote a-rama. This is an all-day series of votes on amendments frequently brought up for campaign ads. A few Senate Democrats who are up for reelection may be reluctant to vote against an increase.
There was $31.176 trillion in debt covered by the limit as of WednesdayOnly a few hundred million billions below the limit. Treasury has always used different accounting strategies to get close to the cap. Doing this again would give enough time to likely keep below the limit up to 2023’s fall or late-summer.
Some argue that the limit should be removed or raised to the point where it is no longer an issue. John Yarmuth, a former Chairman of the House Budget Committee (D-Ky.), supports legislation that would give the Treasury Department the authority to issue debt. This is where it was before Congress established the debt limit in the wake of World War I.
“He would love to see it abolished in the lame duck no matter the outcome of the election,” The Sunday Review was informed last week by a Yarmuth spokesperson.