As of Friday, nearly every House Democrat had signed on to a plan to force a vote on a clean debt-ceiling increase that would not include the spending cuts demanded by Republican House speaker Kevin McCarthy.
In an effort led by House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, 210 House Democrats had signed a discharge petition as of Thursday to expedite a vote on the issue, making an end run around Republicans who say they will refuse to sign on to any debt-ceiling increase that doesn’t include significant concessions on spending. A majority of House lawmakers, 218, need to sign the measure for it to proceed, in a chamber of 222 Republicans and 213 Democrats.
Three Democrats including Representatives Mary Peltola, Ed Case, and Jared Golden had not signed the petition as of Thursday. At least five GOP members would need to switch sides to endorse the last ditch effort to raise the debt limit. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy denounced the tactic as a “political game” by Democrats to undermine the GOP majority, the New York Times reported.
The Biden administration has insisted that any debt-limit bill must be “clean,” or only contain the increase, while Republicans have been bargaining for spending cuts in exchange for raising the ceiling. Democrats are deploying the petition in the hopes of pressuring Republicans to negotiate with President Biden on that sticking point as the U.S. sits on the verge of debt default for the first time in history.
“In the next few weeks, at the reckless urging of former President Trump, we confront the possibility that right-wing extremists will intentionally plunge our country into a default crisis,” Jeffries’ Wednesday letter to his Democratic colleagues read. “Emerging from the White House meeting, I am hopeful that a real pathway exists to find an acceptable, bipartisan resolution that prevents a default.
The U.S. risks receiving a downgrade on its debt from ratings agencies the closer Congress gets to the June 1 deadline. Given America’s massive and growing debt to GDP ratio, some economists are arguing that its AA+ bond rating is due for a correction. The Congressional Budget Office projects that federal spending will be 23.7 percent of GDP this fiscal year, surpassing the 21 percent it was in 2019 before Covid.