Dem proposes giving Treasury power to raise the debt ceiling

This change is similar to what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) proposed, and Honda said it is needed to avoid another Republican-induced showdown on the debt ceiling this year.

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"My bill will allow Treasury to pay our debts unless a supermajority in Congress acts to stop them," he said Monday. "This is the responsible way to govern, because we can't put the full faith and credit of the United States in the hands of Teapublicans any longer."

In a letter to House members seeking support for his bill, Honda wrote that the periodic debate on the debt ceiling is broken, and has "turned into a poster child for congressional dysfunction, brinksmanship and irresponsibility."

Democrats and President Obama have argued repeatedly that raising the debt ceiling is not about letting the government spend more money, but is about paying past bills the government has incurred. Honda repeated that argument on Monday.

"The debt ceiling controls whether or not we're going to pay our debts from the past, not spend any additional money," he said. "The federal government cannot hide from its creditors, refuse to answer the phone and hope that they don't notice we've refused to pay up."

But Republicans have said the ever-increasing debt ceiling is a clear sign that the government continues to overspend, and that it is appropriate to discuss ways to trim spending in the context of a debate about the debt ceiling.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) blasted Democrats on Monday for saying that Republicans are trying to avoid a debt-ceiling increase in order to avoid paying the government's bills.

"The president may be the only person in Washington who believes that failing to increase the nation's credit card limit is the same as failing to pay back the credit card company," he said.

"The debt-ceiling debate is not about refusing to pay America’s bills; it's about forcing our government to get its spending addiction under control," he added. "The first step to recovery is overcoming denial and admitting that Washington has a problem. If the president can't admit that our country has a spending problem, then House conservatives are ready to stage an intervention."

Duncan released that statement after President Obama called on Congress to allow for a clean debt-ceiling increase without any conditions related to spending cuts. Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) said Obama's speech made his blood pressure rise.

"If you wonder why the House must use the debt limit to force the president to focus on deficit reduction, you need look no further than this morning's speech," Woodall said. "The president said that the work fixing the debt and deficit is already more than halfway done and signed into law. Do any of you believe that is true?"

Honda and other Democrats have said the delay in agreeing to a debt-ceiling increase in 2011 prompted uncertainty in the market that led to a downgrading of the creditworthiness of the U.S. government.

"The Government Accountability Office has shown that the debacle of last summer and conservatives' hostage politics cost the American taxpayers $1.3 billion, while the Bipartisan Policy Center projects the 10-year cost may amount to as much as $19 billion," Honda said in his letter to House members. "The disorder surrounding the debt-ceiling process has drawn sharp rebuke from economists of all political affiliations as well as warnings of downgrades by credit agencies."

— This story was corrected at 10:32 a.m. to say Rep. Jeff Duncan criticized Obama's debt remarks, not Rep. Jeff Denham.