House panel to tackle debt limit bills

House panel to tackle debt limit bills

House Republicans are preparing to move legislation that would force the Obama administration to detail how it would tackle the nation’s debt before receiving another boost to the debt limit.

The House Ways and Means Committee, led by Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate Krystal Ball touts Sanders odds in Texas MORE (R-Wis.), is set to consider a pair of bills Thursday that would address the nation’s borrowing cap. One would require the Treasury Secretary to testify before the panel and provide a report about the nation’s fiscal health.

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The measure would order the Secretary to testify before the panel roughly one month before the debt-limit deadline and detail the current state, future trajectory and composition of the nation’s debt. In addition, he would have to detail what the president proposes to do about the debt immediately and in the years to come.

The report would also have to detail what growing debt levels mean for future government spending, the position of the dollar as the international reserve currency and the future of programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

The end result of such legislation would be to give lawmakers the chance to grill a top administration official about the state of U.S. finances as a debt-limit debate begins in earnest.

The second would exempt some obligations from the debt cap, a contentious approach backers say would remove the serious risks that come with a potential default.

Some outside experts and the Obama administration have dismissed this approach of prioritizing payments on public debt as unworkable and impractical. But Republicans have repeatedly pushed this approach, saying it would temper the dire warnings of economic catastrophe that often accompany any debt limit debate.

“A default on our debt would be a huge blow to our economy and our standing in the world. This legislation would take that threat off the table so that we can have a real conversation about Washington’s spending problem,” said Brendan Buck, a committee spokesman.

But Democrats have long dismissed the approach, arguing it would ensure the government makes some payments while shirking on the rest.

“The bill the Republicans are putting forward — much like an identical bill they brought up two years ago — would take the U.S. off the hook for paying our bills on time and in full. It would prioritize paying our nation’s obligations to China and other foreign bondholders before the obligations we have to our own citizens — including active duty troops," said Caroline Behringer, spokeswoman for the panel's Democrats.

The prioritization approach is not a new one for the GOP, but the measure that would call the Treasury Secretary to detail the nation’s fiscal state is a new wrinkle.

While lawmakers are currently working to avert a government shutdown by passing new funding legislation by the end of September, lawmakers will also have to deal with the debt limit later this year. Treasury Secretary Jack LewJacob (Jack) Joseph LewHogan urges Mnuchin to reconsider delay of Harriet Tubman bill Mnuchin says new Harriet Tubman bill delayed until 2028 Overnight Finance: US reaches deal with ZTE | Lawmakers look to block it | Trump blasts Macron, Trudeau ahead of G-7 | Mexico files WTO complaint MORE has told Congress he expects a borrowing increase will not be required until late October, and outside analysis pegs the deadline sometime in November or December.

— This post updated at 11:44 a.m.