In the summer of 2011, when House Democrats’ clout could be measured in teaspoons, Vermont Rep. Peter Welch aligned his colleagues on a possible fix to the debt ceiling crisis.
Step One: Congress could raise the debt limit.
Step Two: There was no step two.
It was a “no-strings” plan, and it garnered 114 co-sponsors, and it failed in the House. But Democrats felt pretty good about it after the debt crisis ended, and Republicans’ demanded had bruised their image. Welch is now asking the president to “invoke the 14th amendment” and say that the United States can issue debt without any congressional hike in the debt limit. He’s trying to get Democrats to co-sign a letter on the subject.
“The president is doing a good job so far in negotiations, and he’s really sticking to the revenue component of a possible deal,” says Welch. “He should say he won’t be threatened by another debt ceiling stick-up.”
The White House’s current position doesn’t look like Welch’s. In its offer to Boehner, the administration suggested that a permanent hike in the debt limit – not any actual spending, just a wishing-away of the debt ceiling process – be part of a deal.
“I don’t think congress will agree to that,” says Welch. “I understand why the president asked for it, but the perception in Congress will be: We’re being asked to give something up.” Better to invoke the Constitution and “let the courts sort it out.”