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WASHINGTON – As Congress braces for yet another debt ceiling confrontation, long-term solutions to address what has become an increasingly partisan issue are reappearing.

The United States narrowly avoided default in October after Republicans refused to vote for an increase in the debt ceiling. Instead, Democrats adopted a short-term extension, setting up another fight for early December. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a recent letter to Congress that she had a “high degree of confidence” that the Treasury would be able to fund the government until December 15. But she warned that “there are scenarios in which the Treasury would remain with insufficient remaining resources” beyond this mid-December date.

The debt ceiling limits the amount the government can borrow to pay its bills. Since the end of World War II, Congress has passed nearly 100 debt limit changes in what was once a routine bipartisan process that lawmakers have turned into a political club in recent years.

With another default threat fast approaching, there may not be enough time to embrace a long-term solution, but lawmakers are highlighting ideas for the future.

Abolish the debt ceiling

Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., Reintroduced a measure in February that would scrap the debt ceiling. He has just seven co-sponsors, all Democrats, including House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina. A similar bill has been tabled in the Senate.

“I think that’s the most sensible way to do it because there’s no point,” House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., Said of the cap. of debt in a recent interview. “I mean, it’s been in effect for 100 years and it certainly hasn’t limited the debt in any way. And all it does is open up opportunities for mischief and trickery.

Yarmuth said he didn’t think the Boyle proposal would pass because it would be “a tough political vote” for many members.

“Personally, I would like to get back a billion dollars,” he said. “There are other people who are for that. I mean, very seriously, raising it to an absurd number that would never be reached.

Yellen said in September that she was in favor of eliminating the debt ceiling altogether.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., Said in October he would like to eliminate the debt limit because it is a “bogus problem” and has “no impact on the debt we contract “.

Transfer power to the Consolidated Revenue Fund

Yarmuth and Boyle, deputy chairman of the House budget committee, introduced a bill in September that would transfer the power to lift the debt ceiling to the Secretary of the Treasury, although this would give Congress the ability to override decision. Yarmuth said he believed it would have a better chance than the Debt Limit Abolition Bill.

This Boyle-Yarmuth bill “has merit,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Said in October.

Hoyer said in October that the option to transfer authority to the Treasury “should have some viability” because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Suggested in 2011 to remove power from Congress. raise the debt ceiling and give it to Congress. President.

Remove the threat of a fault

Shai Akabas, director of economic policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, recently made a similar point, suggesting in an editorial in Roll Call that reform could involve tying the debt ceiling to the budget process and giving the president power. to suspend the debt limit if necessary.

“Specifically, if Congress fails to do its job and pass a fiscally responsible budget resolution each April, the president would have the power to suspend the debt ceiling until the end of the following fiscal year.” , he wrote. “This action should be accompanied by a specific debt reduction proposal – think of tax increases and spending cuts.”

A $ 1 trillion coin

Some political experts and lawmakers have also floated the idea of ​​a $ 1,000 billion platinum coin minted by the federal government and deposited in the Federal Reserve, which the government could then use to pay off the country’s debt. Yellen rejected this proposal in early October.

“I oppose it and I don’t think we should seriously consider it,” she said in an interview on CNBC. “It really is a gadget.”

What happens after

A default on US debt – said to be the first in the country’s history – “would likely cause a recession” and could jeopardize Social Security and child tax credit payments, Yellen said. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also said the U.S. military may not be able to pay military, civilians or contractors.

While experts agree that a default would have catastrophic repercussions for the economy, the two parties in Congress continue to disagree on how to raise the debt ceiling.

McConnell said Democrats would have to deal with the problem on their own given they have pursued a large welfare spending program without GOP support.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., however, ruled out using the obscure budget reconciliation process again, as Republicans have suggested, insisting the process be bipartisan while at the same time noting that an increase in the debt limit would be necessary with or without the Build Back Better Act. Still, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., And other Democrats said last month they would consider changing house rules to create an exception to filibuster – a target common liberal supporters – to lift the debt ceiling with only a majority vote.

Since then, Schumer has had a rare face-to-face meeting with McConnell ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday to discuss the debt ceiling and other issues, a conversation the Republican leader called “good discussions on a number of different issues.”

When asked about the Senate Democrats’ demand for his party to join them in supporting a debt limitation bill, McConnell simply said, “We’ll figure out how to avoid default. We still do.


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