Congressional Democratic leaders vowed to quickly tackle the nation’s debt ceiling in the next few weeks, saying the party’s victory in the midterms has given them leverage, even while the GOP has promised to fight the move.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said they would act while Democrats still control both chambers and before new legislators are sworn in in the new year.
“Our best shot, I think, is … to do it now,” said Pelosi. “Winning the Senate gave us a lot of leverage for how we go forward…in the lame duck.”
Sen. Schumer said that Senate Dem leaders planned to meet this week to discuss a possible legislative path forward but declined to give any specifics. “The debt ceiling, of course, is something that we have to deal with. And it’s something that we will look at over the next few weeks,” Schumer said.
Democrats clinched control in the Senate on Saturday when the Nevada race was called in their favor. It is still unclear which party will ultimately control the house as several races have yet to be called.
Janet Yellen, Biden’s Treasury Secretary, has urged lawmakers to act swiftly, with the U.S.’s $31.4 trillion line of credit predicted to be exhausted sometime in 2023’s first quarter.
The country’s debt ceiling must be approved every time it needs to be raised to keep America from default, which could have devastating results. The mechanism intends to keep the nation’s rising debt under control, but it has been ineffective in recent years.
Republicans: Debt ceiling an “important tool”
The GOP has said the debt ceiling could be used as an “important tool” to help rein in federal spending if the party takes House control.
Similarly, Speaker Pelosi warned that Republicans would use the debt limit fight to take aim at Social Security and Medicare, two popular income and health insurance programs for older Americans.
“We’ll see what they contend and what they want to do,” said Pelosi.
A debt-limit Congressional standoff would echo the crisis in 2011 when the United States came just two days short of defaulting on its debt, which caused a downgrade in the U.S.’s sovereign rating and slumped global markets.
In 2011, the Republican-led Congress agreed to lift the debt ceiling only after Democrat President Barack Obama decided on future spending cuts. “There’s a great risk to even discussing not doing it,” said Pelosi. She noted that the previous standoff over the debt ceiling led to the lowering of the credit rating of the country. “So, this is dealing with fire when we’re talking about the stability of our credit rating,” said Pelosi.