Dems scramble for debt ceiling, weigh lone wolf approach

Dems scramble for debt ceiling, weigh lone wolf approach

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that Democrats are putting raising the debt ceiling using the reconciliation process “on the table” as Republicans hold strong in their assertion that they will not support increasing the federal government’s borrowing limit.

“In the short term we may well send over a clean debt limit extension to the Senate as a message bill so they can get it done relatively quickly if they can get the votes,” the Maryland Democrat said. “Reconciliation is one option and that’s on the table. … I think both alternatives are available to us.” 

Shortly after his comments to reporters, Hoyer clarified that he does not believe it is “the best option, nor the option we’re pursuing.”

His comments come one day after the Senate voted down a House-passed bill to avert a government shutdown that included language to increase the debt limit, with GOP lawmakers arguing that they can’t support the hike as Democrats look to move forward with a sweeping social spending bill. Republicans have repeatedly called on members across the aisle to use the reconciliation process to go it alone, allowing them to bypass the 60-vote threshold in the Senate and pass the increase along party lines. 

“Look Mr. President, for more than two months — two months — Republicans have explained that the unified Democratic Party government will not get bipartisan support for a debt limit hike while they write a partisan taxing-and-spending spree behind closed doors. It’s as simple as that,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor on Tuesday.  

“Bipartisanship isn’t a light switch that Democrats can switch on when they need to borrow money and flip off when they want to spend money. If Democrats want to use fast-track, party-line procedures to ram through trillions more in inflationary socialism, they’ll have to use the same tools to handle the debt limit.” 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer argues the reconciliation process is not “the best option” to bypass the Republican vote.

Democrats have slammed Republicans for withholding their votes, arguing it’s necessary to pay for the previous administration’s spending. Schumer said he is planning to attempt to receive consent to pass it without Republican support.

“Later this afternoon, I will ask unanimous consent for the Senate to hold a vote to increase the debt limit at a majority threshold. In other words, we would get consent that you only need 50 votes, not 60, on this vote to increase the debt limit, and that’s what happened in the past,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on the floor.

“It would be very similar to the process that Leader McConnell cited yesterday, favorably, which allowed for the debt limit to be increased without the minority party providing any of the votes needed to do so.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is aiming to raise the federal debt ceiling with only 50 votes and possibly no Republican support.

So if Republicans want to abscond from their responsibilities—not vote to pay the debt they incurred—so be it. That’s a bad thing, that’s a bad precedent. But this is the way out. It is a way out.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Schumer spoke with President Biden on Monday evening about their options, including potentially using reconciliation, but leaders have asserted they do not want to start a precedent of raising the debt ceiling along party lines. 

Pelosi told reporters that Democrats discussed different paths forward during their caucus meeting on Tuesday morning, highlighting a bill led by Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) that would allow the all 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) talks to reporters
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer talks to reporters while leaving a House Democratic caucus meeting at the Capitol building on September 28, 2021.
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“The responsibility for lifting the debt ceiling rests with the Secretary of the Treasury [under Boyle’s bill], and that person, she in this case, would have the authority to lift the Dead Sea, Congress would have the authority to reject that,” she said. 

Pelosi added that Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) a “wants a trillion dollar coin” to address the debt limit, which would not require congressional approval. 

House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) previously warned that Democrats may not have time to rework the reconciliation bill to include debt limit language.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen should have the power to raise the federal debt ceiling.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that Congress has until Oct. 18 until the nation hits its borrowing limit, cautioning that it would have a catastrophic effect on the economy and financial markets. 

“We now estimate that Treasury is likely to exhaust its extraordinary measures if Congress has not acted to raise or suspend the debt limit by October 18,” she wrote in a letter to Congress. “At that point, we expect Treasury would be left with very limited resources that would be depleted quickly.”

Yellen told lawmakers at a hearing on Tuesday that it could impact individuals receiving payments including social security checks and payments to the troops. 

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