Congressional Democratic leaders on Sunday vowed to tackle the nation’s debt ceiling in coming weeks, saying their party’s election victories offer them leverage even as Republicans have promised a potentially explosive fight.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said they would act while President Joe Biden’s fellow Democrats control both chambers.
“Our best shot, I think, is … to do it now,” Pelosi told ABC News’ “This Week” program. “Winning the Senate gave us a lot of leverage for how we go forward… in the lame duck,” she said.
Schumer said that Senate Democratic leaders would meet this week to discuss the legislative path forward, though he declined to offer any specifics.
“The debt ceiling of course, is something that we have to deal with. And it’s something that we will look at over the next few weeks,” he said.
Democrats clinched control of the Senate late on Saturday. It is still not clear which party will control the House.
Biden’s Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, has urged lawmakers to act before the new Congress is seated in January, with the nation’s $31.4 trillion line of credit expected to be exhausted sometime in the first quarter of 2023.
The debt ceiling must be approved each time it needs to be raised in order to ensure that the United States avoids a default, which would have catastrophic effects.
The mechanism is meant to control the nation’s rising debt, although it has been ineffective in recent decades.
Republicans have said the debt ceiling would be an “important tool” to rein in federal spending if they take control of the House.
Pelosi warned Republicans would use the debt fight to take aim at two popular health and income insurance programs for older Americans, Medicare and Social Security.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)