The House returned to Washington Tuesday to approve a bill that temporarily raises the debt ceiling, enabling the U.S. Treasury to keep meeting U.S. obligations until at least early December.
The bill raises the debt ceiling by $480 billion. Many analysts say the increase will extend the Treasury’s potential default date to December 3, but others think the fiscal cushion could last longer. The research firm Wrightson ICAP on Tuesday estimated that the increase will be enough to provide the Treasury with sufficient resources “until some point between mid-December and early January,” suggesting that Congress will have about two months to defuse the next debt ceiling crisis, on either a short- or long-term basis.
Lawmakers did not vote directly on the debt ceiling bill, which the Senate passed last week. Instead, the House “deemed” the bill to have passed as part of the debate over a package of legislation that includes the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, the Protect Older Job Applicants Act and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Improvement Act.
Critics charged that Democrats did not vote directly on the bill in order to avoid taking public responsibility for the increase. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) said Democrats were playing “a game of smoke and mirrors so they don’t have to be on the record about substantive items.”
Time for new rules? House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) and Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA) introduced a bill two weeks ago that would give the Treasury Secretary the authority to raise the debt ceiling, and at a press conference Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) spoke approvingly of the proposal.
“That seems to have some appeal on both sides of the aisle, because of the consequences to people of not lifting it,” Pelosi said. “I think it has merit.”
In a press release when the proposal was released, Boyle said the debt ceiling is no longer necessary or productive. “It’s quite clear that this measure, which was first introduced in 1917, has outlived its effectiveness,” he said. “Simply put, the debt ceiling is incapable of accomplishing what it sets out to do—to control how much the government borrows—as the bills Congress passes are legally binding and cannot be inhibited by such a limit.”
The bill would require 60 votes in the Senate, however, and has little chance of becoming law in the current Congress.