Okay, so from my understanding, the upcoming debt ceiling battle has much less to do with votes (as it requires just a majority), but in the ability of the House to vote for it in the first place, and I’m seeing contradictory info on that.
So how easy would it be for just a few members to keep the issue off the table for anything beyond the short term? What can be done to counter such efforts?
So yes, in the House there is no filibuster, but the Speaker and leadership can limit what comes up for a vote at all based on the whims of their conference. A bill might pass easily with minority support + less than all of the majority, but will never get that vote.
When people say that the Speaker decides what comes to the floor, what they’re actually talking about is the House Rules Committee. This committee decides if and under what conditions a bill will be allowed to be considered on the floor (i.e. will amendments be allowed, how much debate will be allowed, etc.). Traditionally this committee has been stacked with the Speaker’s close allies so that he controls the process. But apparently one of the concessions McCarthy has made is to appoint Freedom Caucus members to the Rules Committee, which will likely undermine his ability to exert control on the House agenda.
There is a process to bypass leadership and force a vote on the floor — the discharge petition. It requires an absolute majority (i.e. 218) of the chamber to sign the petition, which then requires that the bill to be “discharged” from committee and brought to the floor.
But which will also allow the misleadingly-named “freedom caucus” to exert more control over the process to their satisfaction regardless of how much that amounts to minority of the minority of the majority of the minority rule.
Perhaps not. Republicans take control of the House, the first week is spent chaotically bickering about who will be Speaker. A couple of weeks later, more chaos and fears of government shutdown ensue. That’s not a good look for the Republicans, and it’s a hard sell to voters that the Dems are to blame.
So it might in fact be easier to stop them playing these games (and thus better for the country, not just Dem votes) to have the issue come up immediately.
An urgent debt ceiling crisis would be bad enough that the entire democratic caucus may be willing to threaten a filibuster carve-out. There was some reporting last time around that even Manchin was on board if there was a republican filibuster which is part of why the GOP eventually made a deal to avoid a showdown. The democratic caucus as a whole isn’t willing to reform the filibuster over a potential future showdown, so they didn’t just do it before the GOP house majority came in.
At least in the past (before the nihilist power grab in the house GOP) the Republicans also haven’t tried to actually go through with a dent default, they just use it as a game of chicken in the hopes that the democrats will blink first. So if that remains true, any debt ceiling deal the house agrees to should hopefully be a breeze through the senate.
Unfortunately we all have to hope at this point that enough of the house GOP will break with an almost guaranteed leadership effort to hold up the debt ceiling and force a vote. I hope in the future that senate democrats have enough imagination to realize they need to be willing to do what is necessary to lock in essential government functions while they are able rather than relying on a weakened group establishment GOP politicians to do thr sane thing in the end.
There weren’t enough Republican votes to overcome a filibuster because it wasn’t a catastrophe yet. This has been the game with the last several debt ceiling bills – Senate Republicans are starkly opposed until it gets to the point where serious economic disruption is imminent then enough of them fold to let it pass. It’s a game of chicken. And like chicken, the players just need to miscalculate once to do irreparable damage.
When will we finally stop pretending that the debt ceiling exists? Whatever else they can do, Congress cannot change the laws of mathematics. Debt equals spending minus revenue, and so once Congress sets spending and revenue, they have also set debt. By the process of setting revenue and spending, they have inherently authorized debt.
I’m always reminded of the old joke where the man comes home to find his wife in bed with some other guy. Thinking quickly the husband pulls out his pistol, points it at his own head and shouts: “Don’t laugh; you’re next!”
That’s certainly a valid argument. The Constitutional issue is that Article I, Section 8 provides that among Congress’ enumerated powers are, “To pay the Debts . . .” and, “To borrow Money on the credit of the United States.” Does it require more than the implicit understanding that authorizing expenditures in excess of revenues necessitates the issuance of debt for Congress to exercise these powers? Historically, the answer has always been yes. Prior to the debt limit, Congress used to authorize each individual debt issuance going back to the founding.