The debt ceiling was raised seven times during the George W. Bush administration, with no great battles and no threats of economic chaos. But now that we have a Democratic president, the Republicans have chosen to exploit the debt ceiling as a means of blackmailing the American people in order to impose their extreme and regressive agenda. The result of this extortion, in 2011, was a downgrading of the U.S. credit rating for the first time in history and a terrible compromise that punishes middle and working class people, retracts social safety nets, and inhibits economic progress just when we most need federal leadership toward economic recovery.

There is certainly a time and a place for discussion of the proper levels of taxation and spending, and I am ready to have that discussion. But such discussions need not – must not – be tied to the routine raising of the debt ceiling to pay for debts already incurred. It’s time to repeal the debt ceiling, and I will soon re-introduce legislation to do so.

The facts are plain: eliminating the debt ceiling would not create new deficit spending. That occurs when Congress decides to authorize more spending than revenue. The debt ceiling simply prevents the President from borrowing money to pay the debts when they come due.

Repealing the debt ceiling would ensure that Republican radicals can no longer play a dangerous game of chicken with the full faith and credit of the United States. We cannot risk allowing this artifact of World War I to threaten our nation’s creditworthiness.

Instead, we need to finally focus on the real work at hand: creating jobs and economic development, providing aid to states, building infrastructure, and injecting aggregate demand back into the economy. Then, when the economy has recovered, we can undertake to pay down the national debt.

If we are to prevent years of underemployment and the attrition of America’s great middle class, we must act now. We must not permit an artificial debt ceiling to throw the country into default, and our economy into chaos. It’s time to abolish the debt ceiling.

Nadler is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.