House Democrats Prepare End Run Around McCarthy To Raise Debt Limit

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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Democrats in the House of Representatives began circulating a discharge petition on Tuesday that would allow them to raise the debt ceiling despite not controlling the floor.

Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern, the ranking member of the Rules Committee, introduced the discharge petition in conjunction with a bill to raise the debt ceiling without budget cuts, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries wrote in a letter to members. Discharge petitions require the Speaker of the House to bring bills to the floor for a vote when they reach 218 signatories. They are rarely successful, with only two passing the House since 2002.

“A dangerous default is not an option. Making sure that America pays its bills—and not the extreme ransom note demanded by Republicans—is the only responsible course of action. Since 1960, the debt ceiling has been extended or revised 78 separate times—49 under Republican administrations and 29 under Democratic presidents,” Jeffries wrote.

California Rep. Mark DeSaulnier introduced the Breaking the Gridlock Act in late January, which will serve as the vehicle for the debt ceiling increase. Assuming that all 213 Democrats support the discharge petition, party leadership will need five Republicans to cross over and sign it.

Moderate Republicans like Don Bacon of Nebraska and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania have downplayed the likelihood of raising the debt limit without spending cuts. The debt ceiling legislation passed by the House on April 26 would cut total federal spending by $3.9 trillion over ten years, according to the Congressional Budget Office, while raising federal revenue by $400 billion.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, President Joe Biden, and other congressional leaders on Monday that the federal government will default on its debt by June 1 if Congress does not raise the debt ceiling. McCarthy and Biden will meet at the White House on May 9 to discuss raising the debt ceiling.

Republican Sens. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota and Rick Scott of Florida said Tuesday that they would be open to raising the debt ceiling for 30 days to give McCarthy and Biden more time to negotiate. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: RSC Chairman Kevin Hern Calls For ‘Strong Debt Limit Bill’ By End Of April)

“The filing of a debt ceiling measure to be brought up on the discharge calendar preserves an important option. It is now time for MAGA Republicans to act in a bipartisan manner to pay America’s bills without extreme conditions,” Jeffries added.