WASHINGTON — Three Senate Democrats introduced a bill on Tuesday that they say is intended to significantly reduce the chances that either political party could use the debt limit to pursue unrelated policy changes.
The legislation, called the “Pay Our Bills Act,” was introduced by Sens. Chuck Schumer, from New York, Barbara Boxer from California, and Mazie Hirono from Hawaii. It allows Congress to disapprove debt-ceiling increases rather than approving them.
The bill would affect all future increases in the debt limit. Congress would have 15 days after the President proposes an increase to the limit, to vote on a resolution of disapproval.
“The way it works right now, the debt ceiling is like a ticking time bomb that threatens massive economic destruction,” Schumer said a news release. “This bill would defuse it. By forcing Congress to disapprove debt ceiling increases, we greatly reduce the risk of default that would be a crushing blow to our economy — taking money out of middle-class pockets and destroying middle-class jobs.”
The bill is based on a mechanism that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., proposed in 2011 and was part of the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2014 (H.R. 2775) that was enacted on Oct. 17 to reopen the federal government and avert a default.
Under the new law, President Obama has suspended the debt limit until Feb. 7. If Congress wants to disapprove the suspension, it must pass a resolution of disapproval. The president has the option of vetoing that resolution. If he does so, Congress could override the veto with a two-thirds majority.
However, subsequent debt ceiling increases must still be approved by Congress.