The president could raise the nation’s debt ceiling unless Congress votes to nix it, under a bill introduced today by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and two other Senate Democrats.
Boxer, D-Calif.; Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, say the “Pay Our Bills Act” would reduce the chances of the debt ceiling being used as a political weapon to leverage votes on unrelated issues, as just happened this month as House Republicans tried to tie raising the ceiling and ending the government shutdown they caused to defunding the nation’s health insurance law.
“We know from recent history that even the threat of not paying our bills does serious damage to our economy,” Boxer said in a news release. “It’s time for us to put in place a straightforward process to avoid a catastrophic default on our nation’s debt. The Pay Our Bills Act gives both houses of Congress and the President a say, but sends a strong message of certainty to the markets, to our families and to the world.”
Right now, Congress must vote to raise the nation’s debt ceiling – the limit beyond which the nation can no longer borrow to pay costs it already has incurred. Under this bill, the president could propose an increase and Congress would have 15 days in which to vote on a resolution of disapproval. The president could veto that resolution like any other legislation, but so too could Congress could override that veto with a two-thirds majority vote as with any other legislation.
As a practical matter in the current political landscape, such a resolution of disapproval would pass the Republican-led House easily but would be dead on arrival in the Democrat-led Senate – and without disapproval from both chambers, the president would be free to do as he sees fit. And that means this Pay Our Bills Act will be dead on arrival in the House.
But McConnell, speaking on the Senate floor today, said his 2011 proposal was never meant to be permanent, or unaccompanied by spending cuts like those accomplished through the ongoing budget sequestration. He called the Democrats’ bill an “outrageous… plan to permanently hand the President a credit card without spending limits, and without lifting a finger to address the national debt.”
Schumer “is not going to find any dance partners on this side of the aisle,” McConnell said. “Because handing the President a permanent blank check, increasing the size of government, and trying to overturn the most significant bipartisan accomplishment of the Obama years – well, that’s just a non-starter.”