Senate Democrats Introduce Bill That Would End Republican Debt Ceiling Hostage Taking

John Boehner crying

Senate Democrats introduced legislation today that appears to put Republicans on notice that if they mess with the debt ceiling again, Democrats will permanently eliminate their default threat.

Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) introduced a bill that would make permanent a rule devised by Mitch McConnell that uses resolutions of disapproval to allow the president to raise the debt ceiling.

Sen. Schumer said, “The way it works right now, the debt ceiling is like a ticking time bomb that threatens massive economic destruction. This bill would defuse it. By forcing Congress to disapprove debt ceiling increases, we greatly reduce the risk of default that would be a crushing blow to our economy – taking money out of middle-class pockets and destroying middle-class jobs. I hope our Republican colleagues will do the right thing and join in our efforts to limit the risk of default and provide certainty to American families and businesses.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell was not amused. According to The Hill, McConnell said,

“[Schumer] wants to extend the debt ceiling permanently by going around Congress. Let me repeat that: the so-called ‘Schumer-Obama Plan’ is a plan to permanently hand the president a credit card without spending limits, and without lifting a finger to address the national debt,” McConnell said. “I reject that idea entirely.

“I believe that increases in the debt ceiling should be accompanied by reforms,” he continued. “That’s just what we did in 2011, when Congress raised the debt ceiling in return for enacting $2 trillion in bipartisan spending control — the spending control the president campaigned on endlessly.”

The Democratic bill won’t pass. It won’t get out of the Senate, and if it did, it wouldn’t pass the House. The legislation is still important because it suggests what Democrats are going to ask for next if Republicans threaten the country with default in February or March of 2014.

If Republicans threaten the nation with another self-created economic crisis, Democrats will push for the elimination of the debt ceiling. President Obama has already signaled support for the bill, so it is clear that Democrats are sending a message. Democrats have been emboldened by the way that they stood up to Republicans on the government shutdown and the debt ceiling, and Republicans will pay a steep price if they choose to play games.

What happens to this bill right now isn’t as important as the fact that Democrats are putting it on the table. Senate Democrats are setting the stage for using the Republicans’ own behavior against them. There is also the political bonus of reminding Republican voters in Kentucky that Mitch McConnell could be responsible for Republicans losing their favorite hostage.

Congressional Republicans have repeatedly proven that they aren’t fit to govern, and if they try to provoke another economic crisis, Democrats are ready to act.

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