May 17, 2023 - Politics & Policy

House Dems advance debt ceiling contingency plan

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. Photo: Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday his caucus will still try to give themselves the option to force a vote on a clean debt ceiling increase despite ongoing negotiations.

Why it matters: With as few as two weeks until the U.S. reaches the fiscal cliff, Democrats are preparing a backup option to try to bypass House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) if talks with the White House go south.

Driving the news: Jeffries, in a "dear colleague" letter, said Budget Committee ranking member Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) will file Democrats' discharge petition to force a clean debt ceiling vote later on Wednesday morning.

  • Jeffries wrote that, after a White House meeting on Tuesday with McCarthy, President Biden, Vice President Harris and other congressional leaders, he is "hopeful that a real pathway exists to find an acceptable, bipartisan resolution[.]"
  • But, he added, "we confront the possibility that right-wing extremists will intentionally plunge our country into a default crisis."
  • "Given the impending June 1 deadline and urgency of the moment," he continued, "It is important that all legislative options be pursued in the event that no agreement is reached."

The details: Jeffries said the petition will be available on the House floor for members to sign beginning at 10 a.m. ET.

  • "It is imperative that Members make every effort to sign the discharge petition today," he wrote.

It appears the petition will have at least near-unanimous support from the chamber's 213 Democrats.

  • Rep. Greg Landsman (D-Ohio), a swing-district member and one of roughly a dozen House Democrats who has advocated negotiations between McCarthy and Biden, said he will sign it.
  • So will Reps. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.), Mary Peltola (D-Alaska) and Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez (D-Wash.), who have said Biden should negotiate the debt ceiling, their offices told Axios.
  • "[I] believe a discharge petition to bring a clean debt ceiling solution to the floor can provide a valuable backup option," Peltola said in a statement.

Yes, but: The petition needs 218 signatures to force a vote, meaning at least five Republicans will also need to sign onto it.

  • Centrist and swing-district Republicans, including those in districts won by President Biden, have consistently rejected the idea of signing on.
  • Democrats are hoping that changes if the U.S. reaches the fiscal cliff without a deal.
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