By Walter Alarkon - 12/10/09 09:59 PM EST
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that
lawmakers will take up an increase in the debt ceiling before leaving
Pelosi in a news conference said “it is our intention” to add a debt ceiling increase to the Department of Defense spending bill.
The House voted earlier this year to increase the debt ceiling from $12.1 trillion to $13 trillion, but Pelosi signaled Thursday that the House may increase the ceiling to an even higher level.
Holding the vote now would prevent a politically difficult vote in an election year. Polls show increasing public unease about the size of budget deficits and the public debt.
With the 2010 deficit expected to equal or surpass the record 2009 deficit of $1.4 trillion, the debt ceiling must be increased beyond $13 trillion for lawmakers to avoid another debt limit vote.
The Senate has yet to vote on the bill that raised the debt ceiling to $13 trillion.
The federal debt was at $12.08 trillion on Wednesday, according to the Treasury Department. If the federal debt breaches the ceiling, the country would default.
Before the debt ceiling passes the Senate, Democratic leaders will need to address the debt concerns of a group of centrist Democrats.
The group of 11 senators, led by Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), has said that it won't vote for a debt ceiling increase unless the Senate also votes on a measure creating a special fiscal commission to produce a plan that would rein in debt. That plan would then get an up-or-down vote in both chambers of Congress.
Pelosi also said that the House would take up jobs-related measures next week, such as extending unemployment aid and COBRA healthcare benefits for the jobless that are set to expire at year's end.
“It's important for people who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own," Pelosi said. "It also stimulates the economy, creating jobs."
House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) said this week that he's open to attaching the unemployment and COBRA aid extensions to the Defense appropriations bill, which typically gets broad support.
In addition to those relief measures, Pelosi backed a separate "investment piece" for jobs creation. That would include increased infrastructure investment, state and local fiscal aid to prevent public worker layoffs and help for small businesses.