Dems Offer Bill to Repeal Debt Ceiling, But Won’t Talk About a Spending Plan

By Matt Cover | January 17, 2013 | 11:05 AM EST

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) (AP Photo)

( - Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) won’t say if his party should offer a federal spending plan to avoid the coming debt ceiling and government shutdown deadlines.

“Should the president or Democrats in the Senate or the House offer that funding bill with the debt ceiling increase on it, the way it used to be done?” asked Nadler at a Capitol Hill press conference Wednesday.

“Well, you’d have to agree on the funding bill first, and that’s a different problem,” Nadler said.

Nadler, along with fellow House Democrats Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), held a press conference to introduce a bill that would repeal the debt ceiling entirely.

Nadler, taking questions for the group, said the debt ceiling should be taken “off the table” in any negotiations over federal spending, and he refused to say if Democrats should offer any bill that would solve either problem.

“Basically what we’re saying is that the debt ceiling should be taken off the table. There’s plenty to fight about, unfortunately, the levels of taxation, the levels of spending – there are real disagreements on that. You need both houses and the president to agree on that.”

Nadler and his fellow Democrats accused congressional Republicans of exploiting the “routine” raising of the debt limit to force Congress to cut federal spending.

While Republicans have used the past two debt ceiling deadlines to force a debate on federal spending, those deadlines have only arisen because Congress has failed to complete the basic functions of fiscal policy making.

Normally, each house of Congress passes its own budget and spending legislation independently before reconciling around a single bill or bills that are then sent to the president. If the debt ceiling needed to be raised to allow the government to borrow more money, an increase was typically attached to a budget or spending bill. However, that process has completely broken down as Democrats have refused to offer a budget or complete work on most federal spending legislation.

Democrats in the Senate, where the party controls the agenda, have not passed a budget – the first step in the federal spending process – in 1,358 days, and they have refused to pass even the budgets offered by President Obama. In fact, Democrats in both chambers voted down Obama’s budget proposal last year, with the Senate version garnering zero Democratic votes.

Senate Democrats have also failed to pass normal federal spending legislation on time, instead relying on a series of continuing resolutions over the past several years to keep the government running.

Republicans in the House have basically been left to pass their annual budget and spending bills and then wait until federal funding or debt deadlines expire before being able to negotiate with Democrats.

Because this process has broken down, the status quo of record deficits and debt has continued despite divided party control of Congress.