House Democrats Reveal Plan to Force Clean Debt Ceiling Vote

May 2, 2023

House Democrats on Tuesday revealed a plan to force a clean vote on raising the debt ceiling.

The strategy has been kept under wraps since Democrats began formulating it in January, the month in which the federal government hit its $31.4 trillion borrowing limit, and the U.S. Treasury has been taking “extraordinary measures” to avoid default ever since.

The House Democrats’ plan would raise the debt ceiling with no strings attached—unlike the bill passed by a two votes by House Republicans, who are demanding spending cuts before agreeing to raise the debt ceiling.

The Democrats’ proposal is known as a discharge petition, on which they’ll be able to collect signatures as early as May 16. A discharge petition forces a vote on any measure that gets 218 signatures—a majority in the House. Signatures must be added in person and while the House is in session.

 In a letter to fellow Democrats, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) outlined the strategy. It involves a special rule—intruduced by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) on the House Rules Committee—that would allow the attachment of a clean debt ceiling increase to an unrelated bill.

The bill in question was introduced in January by Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) when Republicans took majority control of the House and referred to several committees for consideration. Democrats have been intending to use it as a vehicle to try to force a floor vote on anything they believed was necessary.

In a letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Monday Secretary Yellen said that if Congress doesn’t act, the U.S. could default on its debt as early as June 1.

The United States has never defaulted on its debt. According to Yellen, doing so would spell  economic “catastrophe” for the country.  

In her letter to McCarthy, she wrote, “If Congress fails to increase the debt limit, it would cause severe hardship to American families, harm our global leadership position, and raise questions about our ability to defend our national security interests.”

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