Democrat Bill Would Let Obama Increase Debt Limit; Congress Wouldn't Need to Vote

By Ali Meyer | October 30, 2013 | 8:31pm EDT

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) (AP File Photo)

( - Democratic senators have introduced legislation that would grant President Barack Obama, and subsequent presidents, the authority to increase the legal limit on the federal government's debt unless Congress subsequently voted to disapprove the increase.

The bill would effectively take elected members of Congress off the hook for approving an increase in the debt. If the president certified that he was going to increase the debt limit, Congress could simply let him do it without taking a vote--and putting members on the record.

Article 1, Section 8, Clause 2 of the Constitution gives Congress, not the president, the power to borrow money. It says: "Congress shall have power ... to borrow money on the credit of the United States."

Sens. Chuck  Schumer (D-N.Y.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) have introduced the Pay Our Bills Act, which would “permanently allow Congress to disapprove debt ceiling increases, instead of approving them.”

“When our debt comes within $100 billion of the debt limit, the president can send Congress a certification that the debt limit needs to be increased by a certain amount. Then Congress has 15 days to vote on a resolution of disapproval, just like we’re doing here in a few hours. This would allow Congress to fully debate and vote on the debt limit. A majority vote would carry in the House and Senate,” said Boxer in a press conference on Tuesday.

Proponents of the bill claim that this piece of legislation is a bipartisan way to ensure that the debt ceiling can’t be used as a political tool.

“Remember the idea behind our bill was brought to us by Republican leader Mitch McConnell in 2011. He said Congress can have its say about the debt limit without jeopardizing the full faith and credit of the United States,” said Boxer. “So we make the McConnell rule permanent.”

But the ‘McConnell Rule’ that the Democrats are proposing looks nothing like the legislation that McConnell actually introduced in 2011.

“Now, I hear that the Senator from New York is going to try and sell his proposal as a quote-unquote ‘McConnell Plan.’ I appreciate the attempt at a PR gimmick here, but there are two huge differences between the ‘Schumer-Obama Plan’ and what I’ve proposed in the past,” Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor Tuesday.

McConnell went on to explain that the ‘Schumer-Obama Plan’ differs in two major ways from his original plan by not raising the debt ceiling permanently and by accompanying his plan with reforms and spending cuts. The legislation the Democrats are proposing does neither of the two.

“He 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. It’s outrageous,” McConnell said.

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