Increasing number of Democrats now favor ditching debt ceiling altogether

An increasing number of Democrats say they favor permanently ditching the debt ceiling, giving Congress unlimited borrowing and spending authority after refusing to raise it via the reconciliation process ahead of an Oct. 18 default deadline.

On Thursday, 11 Republicans in the Senate joined all 50 Democrats to pass a two-month increase after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned for months his party would not do so and implored Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to use the reconciliation process to pass an increase.

But with the clock running on a new deadline and McConnell having vowed in a letter to President Joe Biden on Friday that Republicans would not help again after Schumer ripped the GOP in a floor speech following the vote, now Democrats are calling on Congress to eliminate the ceiling altogether.

They include House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth of Kentucky, as well as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who say they would like to see the debt limit in its current form eliminated, The Hill reported Saturday, because they don’t want members of Congress to use the threat of a governmental default as political leverage.

Democrats are pushing to either take power away from Congress regarding raising the debt ceiling — a core fiscal responsibility given to the Legislative Branch in the Constitution — or to exempt such legislation from the Senate’s filibuster rules.

Last week, Yarmuth joined with Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) to introduce legislation transferring authority to raise the debt from Congress to the secretary of the Treasury, a plan House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described as an “excellent idea,” though she added that for time being her party was focused on averting default and that a longer-term solution is a conversation for another day.

The Hill noted that in the past, Boyle has introduced bills to repeal the debt limit completely as a way to avoid having a political fight about it in the future. He has said the legislation is necessary because any default would likely cause the U.S. to lose its credit status, could trigger a recession, and delay essential payments to military members, Social Security recipients, and others.

And he brought up the idea again this week as McConnell and Schumer battled back and forth over the debt limit after the Kentucky Republican warned Schumer for months he would have to use the reconciliation process to pass an increase, a threat the minority leader and 10 other Republicans backed down from on Thursday.

“While I welcome this change in stance from Sen. McConnell, we need a long-term solution to our debt ceiling dysfunction. It’s time to end the debt limit as we know it,” Boyle noted, according to The Hill.

The chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, Virginia Democratic Rep. Don Beyer, joined the call to eliminate the debt ceiling.

“A chaotic Senate vote 11 days before a deadline that could have wrecked our economy is no way to govern the most powerful nation on Earth,” he tweeted. “It doesn’t have to be like this — Congress has the power to stop it, and we should.”

Last week, Yellen argued for eliminating the limit in testimony before the House Financial Services Committee. Biden has not yet taken a public position on the issue.

Jon Dougherty


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