House Democrats aim to repeal the debt ceiling

One way out the debt ceiling showdown: getting rid of the debt ceiling altogether. A group of House Democrats is introducing legislation Wednesday that would repeal the federal debt limit. 

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.)  (Associated Press)
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) (Associated Press)

Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Jim Moran (D-Va.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) are behind the effort. Some of the same lawmakers attempted to repeal the debt limit in 2011. Given Republican control of the House, it is incredibly unlikely that this legislation will pass.

The debt limit dates to 1939, and stems from earlier limits on borrowing that were meant to give the Treasury secretary more freedom from congressional oversight. But attempts to use the debt ceiling to extract budgetary concessions from the White House began as early as 1953.

"There is certainly a time and a place for discussion of the proper levels of taxation and spending, and I am ready to have that discussion," Nadler said in a recent Hill op-ed. "But such discussions need not – must not – be tied to the routine raising of the debt ceiling to pay for debts already incurred." 

Democrats have championed several other ways around a fight with Republicans. Some have urged the White House to use the 14th amendment to raise the limit unilaterally. Others have argued that the Treasury should issue trillion-dollar platinum coins to pay down the debt. But the administration has rejected both options. 

Rachel Weiner covers cops and courts in Arlington and Alexandria.
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Ed O'Keefe | January 15, 2013