House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is urging Republicans not to support an effort by Democrats to link the annual must-pass National Defense Authorization Act with a maneuver for hiking the debt ceiling.
“Funding our troops through the NDAA should in no way, shape, or form be tied to the debt limit in process or substance,” said Mr. McCarthy, California Republican.
Without GOP support, the effort is unlikely to move forward.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, can only afford to lose three Democrats on any given vote before relying on GOP lawmakers to pass legislation.
A significant contingent of far-left Democrats opposes the NDAA over President Biden’s plan to boost military spending by nearly $25 billion.
When the bill first passed in September, 38 Democrats voted against its passage alongside 75 Republicans. At the time, many of the GOP lawmakers objected to provisions in the bill making women eligible to register for the selective service draft.
With that provision now gone, according to senior lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee, GOP opposition is likely to drop — provided no debt-limit rider is attached.
“This is simple math,” said an aide to GOP leadership. “If the debt-limit is in, they won’t have the Republican votes needed to offset Democratic defections.”
Democrats are scrambling to find an easy solution to raise the debt limit, a cap on how much the government can borrow to pay for federal expenditures, by Dec. 15. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that if Congress fails to meet the deadline, the U.S. could be at risk of defaulting on its debts.
Since raising the debt ceiling requires at least 60 votes in the evenly split Senate to avert a filibuster, Democrats are eyeing a one-time carve-out from the longstanding rule.
Under the proposal being mulled by Democratic leaders, legislation allowing the Senate to raise the debt ceiling once by a simple majority of 51 votes would be packaged with the NDAA. The exact mechanism for how the bills would be combined remains unclear.
Some lawmakers want to include the carve-out as an amendment, while others are backing an obscure legislative procedure to add the measure to the NDAA once it passes the House.
Either way, the proposal would need the backing of 10 Senate Republicans to become law.
House GOP lawmakers say that if Mrs. Pelosi wants to pass the carve-out, it should be done as a stand-alone bill and should not complicate defense matters.
Republicans further insist that Democrats, who control both chambers of Congress and the White House and are backing massive new spending, should unilaterally raise the debt limit using budget reconciliation.
The process, which Democrats are using to move President Biden’s roughly $1.75 trillion social welfare and climate bill, allows tax and spending measures to pass the Senate via simple majority.
“I think the Democrats should raise the debt limit through reconciliation. They’re spending the money by themselves to reconciliation, they should raise the debt ceiling through reconciliation,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee. “The idea of marrying up to the defense bills is a complete and utter disaster.”