Early yesterday, John Bresnahan reported for Punchbowl News that Philadelphia area Democrat Brendan Boyle has been organizing to do something that should have been done the moment after the Democrats won a congressional majority anytime the last decade— namely to get rid of the debt limit. The idea is to permanently “undo the threat posed by the debt limit.”
Bresnahan noted that in a letter to Pelosi and Schumer, the Democrats backing the effort “point out that GOP lawmakers are already threatening to use a fight over raising the debt limit to force cuts in federal spending and programs next year.” It’s exactly what McCarthy was barking about earlier this week.
A wide swath of Democrats signed onto the letter including progressives like Pramila Jayapal, Raúl Grijalva, Jim McGovern. Last time Boyle tried to do the same thing (2021), he had close to 80 co-sponsors. That proposal offered several egislative options proposed by the Members include:
• Permanently repeal the federal debt limit outright
• Authorize the Secretary of the Treasury to raise the debt limit unilaterally • Automatically peg the debt limit to the actual U.S. debt incurred, plus a buffer to allow the issuance of new debt. • Raise or suspend the debt limit to an amount or date sufficient to guarantee that the United States will not reach it in the foreseeable future.
As Bresnahan noted, more and more Democrats “have come to think of the debt limit vote as useless. The thinking goes like this— Congress has already spent the money and Republicans use the mechanism to hold Democrats hostage over spending… The challenge, of course, is that Democrats would need 60 votes [in the Senate] and a supportive president to eliminate the debt ceiling. Here are some snippets from the Democrats’ letter:
Absent Congressional action, the federal government is slated to once again approach the borrowing limit within the next year. While the exact date on which the government would become unable to meet its financial obligations is not yet clear, estimates forecast it will occur during the second half of 2023. If Republicans refuse to support efforts to increase the debt limit or prevent the Senate from filing cloture on debate, the U.S. will enter into default and the full faith and credit of our country will be threatened.
“As such, we are once again calling on leadership to act to avoid default in order to protect the American economy and the financial security of all Americans. With the 117th Congress coming to a close at the end of 2022, and the makeup of the 118th Congress’ House and Senate not yet known, we urge you to use the remaining months to take legislative action that will permanently undo the threat posed by the debt limit.
The only hope of avoiding these potential repercussions is for us to implement a solution more permanent and reliable than the current practice of hastily taking action each time we approach the dollar amount of the debt limit or the expiration of an enacted suspension. As we have detailed in the past, there are several options to do this, including proposals to authorize the Secretary of the Treasury to raise the debt limit unilaterally (e.g., H.R. 5415) and to permanently repeal the federal debt limit (e.g., H.R. 1041 or H.R. 3305), among others.
Despite Boyle’s close relationship with the White House, it wasn’t only Republicans who’ve the proposal a thumbs down. Biden said he won’t support it. Remember, Biden spent 200 years in the Senate as an arch-concersative. Writing for the Wall Street Journal yesterday, Lindsay Wise and Ken Thomas reported that Biden said he wouldn’t support efforts to eliminate the debt ceiling altogether, in the face of Republicans’ calls to use it as leverage to cut government spending if they take control of the House in the midterms. Asked by a reporter if he supported a permanent repeal of the debt limit, Biden said: ‘No. That would be irresponsible.’”