Pelosi says proposal to take debt ceiling authority away from Congress 'has merit'

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday she thinks a bill that would transfer the authority to raise the debt limit from Congress to the Treasury secretary "has merit."

Pelosi's support for shifting the near-annual responsibility of ensuring the U.S. doesn't default on its debts comes as a growing number of Democrats in recent weeks have endorsed abolishing the debt limit in its current form. 

House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) and Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) introduced a bill late last month that would vest the responsibility of raising the debt limit with the Treasury secretary.

"I think it has merit," Pelosi said of the proposal at a press conference in the Capitol.

The House is scheduled to vote later Tuesday to clear a short-term extension of the debt limit into early December, less than a week before the Oct. 18 deadline in which the Treasury Department estimated the U.S. could start defaulting on its obligations.

The calls for reforming the debt limit came in response to Republicans' insistence in recent weeks that they would not vote to raise the debt limit because they want Democrats to use the budget reconciliation process, which is exempt from a Senate filibuster but is more time-consuming and requires specifying a number to raise the debt limit to, rather than suspending it for a period of time. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ultimately agreed to supply enough GOP votes to advance a short-term measure to raise the debt limit, arguing it would provide enough time for Democrats to use reconciliation in the coming weeks for a long-term measure and vowing that Republicans wouldn't vote for another extension. 

Pelosi said late last month that she thinks the Boyle-Yarmuth proposal is an "excellent idea."

But for now, Pelosi and other Democratic leaders are focused on ensuring that legislation to prevent a debt default next week reaches President Biden's desk.

"In the meantime, we're going to pass a bill today to take us to December," Pelosi said.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen last month endorsed the idea of abolishing the debt limit in its current form. 

The White House has not yet indicated if Biden supports similar reforms to the debt limit.

“Right now, our focus is on raising the debt ceiling and the limited amount of time we have left to do that," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last week. "There’s plenty of time to have a conversation after that."

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