Senate Compromise Includes McConnell Debt-Limit Proposal

by Patrick Brennan

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell has floated a proposal for a couple years now as a last-chance way to avert a crisis and allow the president to raise the debt ceiling without congressional approval, with Congress having the ability to strip that authority with a two-thirds veto — and that’s sort of what the bill to be voted on tonight provides for (see pages 24 ff. of the bill).

Assuming it passes tonight, the debt ceiling will be suspended until February 7, meaning the treasury can borrow what it needs to fund obligations until then. Then within the next 14 days, the House and Senate can introduce bills disapproving of this authority and preventing the president from borrowing any more (existing debts incurred will be honored), and subject to some other rules, they can pass a joint resolution doing so, undoing the suspension of the debt ceiling. But the president will of course veto that measure, and it will only survive and reinstate the ceiling before February 7 if two thirds of both houses vote to override the president’s veto.

This doesn’t, contra Breitbart, lessen Congress’s power on the debt ceiling, except inamsuch as the bill’s passage means the debt ceiling will be suspended until February 7. It certainly would empower the president and reduce Congress’s power, of course, if it applied to future scheduled increases (which McConnell’s proposal at times has), but it doesn’t.