Democratic Senators Favor Forcing a House Vote On Increasing The Debt Limit

Democratic senators are growing impatient with the lack of progress on legislation to avert a national default, and they want House Democrats to start working on a plan to compel Republicans to vote on a debt-limit increase bill.

Democratic senators want to prevent a summer showdown on extending the country’s borrowing authority, which would jolt financial markets and the broader economy, which could enter a mild recession in the second part of the year.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) has abandoned his plan to circulate a discharge petition to force a vote on a clean debt limit rise, instead putting pressure on Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to schedule such a vote himself.

McCarthy, on the other hand, shows no indications of backing down from his demand that President Biden agree to significant expenditure cuts in exchange for increasing the debt ceiling, despite Biden’s refusal to talk and House Republicans’ inability to agree on precise objectives.

As a result, several Senate Democrats have suggested that their House counterparts begin working on a discharge petition as an emergency backup plan in case McCarthy continues to dig in his heels.

“I think that they should definitely file a discharge petition in the House. I think they should file a couple of bills that provide a menu of options. They should file a number of options and then be prepared to move forward on discharge petition,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who served in the House leadership before winning election to the Senate.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said he’s “deeply concerned” about the danger of a national default later this year.

“Every passing day leaves me more deeply concerned because they don’t seem to be constructively interested in a path forward,” he said of House Republicans.

Blumenthal expressed skepticism about reaching an agreement with McCarthy, who has yet to present a specific strategy for cutting expenditure. Democrats argue that such a proposal should be the starting point for any negotiations.

“At some point, they will have to move forward with a discharge petition,” he said of House Democrats. “As we get closer to a cataclysmic financial meltdown, I believe Republicans will feel more pressure to be realistic.”

Blumenthal stated that “consideration” should be given to filing a discharge petition shortly, and that “it should begin as soon as possible.”

Members of the House minority can use the discharge rule to bring a bill to the floor without the majority’s leadership’s support by gathering signatures from a majority of the chamber’s members.

Democratic Senators Favor Forcing a House Vote

Democrats own 213 House seats, so they would need at least five Republicans to obtain the 218 signatures required.

Democrats in both chambers believe they can convince a number of moderate Republicans to sign a petition to bypass McCarthy in order to avert a default, though none have openly stated that they will do so.

When questioned about bringing a discharge petition during a press conference last month, Jeffries dismissed the prospect.

“The most viable option right now is for the extreme MAGA Republicans in the House to get their act together and do what they consistently did when Donald Trump was the president of the United States of America,” he told reporters, noting the House raised the debt ceiling three times under Trump “without fanfare.”

Using a discharge petition to force a vote on a measure is time-consuming and could take weeks, if not two and a half months.

Any debt ceiling measure introduced with a discharge petition would have to be submitted to a House committee for at least 30 days before being introduced on the House floor.

To make matters even more complicated, lawmakers may have to file a motion to discharge a rule from the GOP-controlled Rules Committee that establishes the procedure for how the debt-limit measure is handled on the floor.

And the House’s Rule XV states that motions to discharge bills and resolutions from committees shall be in order only on the second and fourth Mondays of a month.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said she favors House Democrats circulating a discharge petition to move a clean debt-limit increase “if that’s what it takes” to get it passed.

“We need a clean debt limit,” she said.

“So get started now,” Warren said. Collecting 218 signatures and through House rules may take weeks.

She emphasized that the Treasury Department’s flexibility to pay the nation’s debts is hard to predict.

Setting the “x date” is difficult. It’s crazy that Republicans want to run us next to it. “That other political theater is pointless,” she said.

On Jan. 19, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen alerted McCarthy and other congressional leaders that the Treasury Department was taking “extraordinary measures” to avoid a default.

“The period of time that extraordinary measures may last is subject to considerable uncertainty, including the challenges of forecasting U.S. government payments and receipts months into the future,” she wrote.

Some Democratic senators believe that House Democrats won’t have enough time to get a clean debt limit bill to the floor before the default deadline.

Both chambers are growing pessimistic that McCarthy and Biden will agree to any debt ceiling deal, and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who will return to the Capitol Monday after a five-week concussion absence, has not indicated that he will broker a compromise like he did during the 2011 debt-limit standoff.

“I’ve never been more pessimistic about where we stand with the debt ceiling,” McCarthy’s close buddy Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) told Punchbowl News.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said that he doesn’t see Republicans willing to back down anytime soon, based on his conversations with House members.

“I talked to some of the House members from Oregon. They gave me description of what it feels like on the House side … It sounds like the mode of operation is to drive the nation off the cliff,” he said.