Democrats Call to Abolish Debt Limits; Republicans Still Divided

Democrat lawmakers such as House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen want to eliminate the debt limit in its current form, and they are joined by a growing number of people. 

They argue that members of Congress should not be able to use the threat of a debt default as political leverage ever again – an approach that would respond to GOP stonewalling by playing some hardball of their own.

On October 18, the U.S. is projected to breach the debt ceiling and they’ll have to deal with it again in December when the latest short-term extension expires.

Now, some Democrats propose longer-term solutions, like taking the authority away from Congress or exempting bills related to the debt limit from the Senate filibuster rules.

Recommended Read: House Passes Bill to Avoid Government Shutdown and Suspend Debt Limit

Yarmuth last week joined Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) in introducing a bill that would transfer the authority to raise the debt limit from Congress to the Treasury secretary.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the proposal was an “excellent idea,” although she stressed Democrats are focused on averting a default now and would leave a conversation about long-term solutions for later.

Boyle has also previously introduced legislation in recent years to repeal the debt limit altogether as a way to permanently eliminate a disastrous scenario that would lead to a U.S. credit downgrade, a likely recession, and delayed Social Security, military salary, and other essential payments made by the federal government.

Last Thursday, the Senate passed a short-term debt limit extension in a vote that divided Republicans who had previously vowed to oppose any measure to prevent a default because they want Democrats to use the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process on their own.  

While the bill passed along party lines, 50-48, 11 Republicans voted with Democrats to overcome a procedural hurdle that required 60 votes.

The debt limit suspension was removed from the government funding bill last week so that lawmakers could prevent a shutdown on Oct. 1. 

House leaders sent members off for recess last Friday, after a tense week in which Democrats postponed a planned vote on the roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Recommended Read: US Congress: Another Debt Ceiling Showdown in December. What to Expect From It?

Last week, in a tamp-down action, Democratic leaders committed to holding a vote on a resolution backed by members of the Blue Dog Coalition that would require annual congressional hearings on the nation’s fiscal state to help inform proposals for how to reduce the national debt in exchange for their votes. 

On the other hand, Republicans have historically been divided over the debt limit and believe discussions about raising it should involve deficit reduction measures.

Now, only 11 Senate Republicans were willing to join with Democrats on Thursday to overcome a procedural motion on the debt limit extension, underscoring the reluctance in the caucus to be seen as helping Democrats under the Biden administration on the issue.

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