Debt Limit Dysfunction

Congressional dysfunction is on display as the Senate struggles to pass the annual National Defense Authorization Act — something it has not failed to do in the six decades NDAAs have existed — and to head off a debt ceiling calamity that could be just eight days away.

One “solution” proposed this week: Jam the two unrelated things together and hope most legislators go along. Senate Majority Leader Schumer has floated adding a debt limit hike to the NDAA, getting two essential tasks done at once.

The problem: Such an NDAA would be unlikely to get final signoff back in the House. There, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has been clear that Republicans — 135 of whom voted for the NDAA back in September — would reject a version with a debt limit increase. But Democrats could not pass it without GOP support, since 38 progressives who objected to defense spending levels voted against the House NDAA.

Last night, another scheme arose. The House would pass a new law permitting the Senate to increase the debt limit with 51 votes on a one-time basis. The Senate would have to pass that bill — which would be subject to the filibuster, meaning it would need 60 votes. Then, President Biden would sign that bill into law — and only then would the Senate actually take up the debt limit increase.

It would all be hilarious if it wasn’t so infuriating.

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