Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats seek to cool simmering tensions Louisiana delegation split over debt hike bill with disaster aid House Democrats unveil legislation to curtail presidential power MORE (D-Calif.) vowed Wednesday that Democrats will stave off a government default by raising the debt ceiling in the coming weeks.
The Speaker did not specify what larger legislative vehicle, if any, Democratic leaders will tap to move the controversial measure amid threats of noncooperation from Republican leaders. But she was terse in ruling out one potential avenue: "We won't be putting it in reconciliation," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol.
That red line is significant, since the Democrats' nascent $3.5 trillion reconciliation package is the one piece of looming legislation expected to move by special budget rules allowing it to pass without any Republican support.
The other legislation scheduled for votes in the coming weeks — including a short-term government spending package, known as a continuing resolution, to prevent a shutdown on Oct. 1 — will require GOP buy-in to defeat a filibuster in the Senate.
Pelosi was vague about her intended strategy, but promised to avoid a default.
"We'll have several options; we'll make them well known to you as we narrow them, as we go forward," she said. "But it has to happen."
Across the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerLouisiana delegation split over debt hike bill with disaster aid The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Government shutdown fears increase as leaders dig in McConnell signals Senate GOP will oppose combined debt ceiling-funding bill MORE (D-N.Y.) delivered a similar message on Wednesday.
"We have a number of different ways we're going to look at getting the debt ceiling done," he said. "Stay tuned."
Democratic leaders don't have much time to play with as they weigh their options. Shortly before Pelosi spoke on Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenMcConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling House passes bill to prevent shutdown and suspend debt limit Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — FBI director pressed on agency reportedly withholding Kaseya decryption key MORE sent the Speaker a letter warning that the department will exhaust its powers for preventing a default at some unspecified time in October.
"Once all available measures and cash on hand are fully exhausted, the United States of America would be unable to meet its obligations for the first time in our history," Yellen wrote.
Raising the debt ceiling does not involve the green-lighting of new spending, but merely empowers the government to borrow more money to cover costs already approved by Congress and signed into law.
Presidents of both parties have been forced to raise the cap on numerous occasions to prevent the government from defaulting on its obligations, including several times under former President TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE — a dynamic Pelosi was keen to highlight on Wednesday.
"We're paying the credit card, the Trump credit card," she said, noting that Democrats supported the debt ceiling hikes under Trump "because it's the responsible thing to do."
"I would hope that the Republicans would act in a similarly responsible way," she said.
Still, the process has become increasingly controversial, particularly since the rise of the conservative Tea Party movement, which made opposition to deficit spending under former President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaDems punch back over GOP holdup of Biden SBA nominee Biden congratulates Trudeau for winning third term as Canadian prime minister Republicans have moral and financial reasons to oppose raising the debt ceiling MORE a central tenet of its successful messaging strategy.
Several times in recent weeks, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling Franken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Woodward: Milley was 'setting in motion sensible precautions' with calls to China MORE (R-Ky.) has hammered Democrats for excluding Republicans in the crafting of the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, while simultaneously expecting GOP lawmakers to help raise the debt ceiling.
“Here’s the comedy, they won’t let Republicans have any say in this monstrosity but they want our help raising their credit card to make it happen,” McConnell said last month.
Democratic leaders are treating those two issues separately — and bashing Republicans for threatening to allow a government default.
"It would be just the height of irresponsibility for Republicans to play games to take the debt limit hostage," Schumer said.
"It would be a horrible act — a despicable act really."
Jordain Carney contributed.