After House Republican leaders announced Thursday that they will demand concessions in spending in exchange for raising America's borrowing cap, Democratic U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison accused the GOP of plotting to use the debt ceiling as a weapon in the shutdown standoff.
The debt limit, currently at $16.7 trillion, is the maximum amount that Congress has authorized the Treasury Department to borrow to pay for the spending Congress has authorized. The limit will be reached by the middle of next month, leaving the federal government unable to pay all of its bills and risking a default.
Before agreeing to raise the debt ceiling, Republicans want a one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act, authority to overhaul the nation’s tax code, construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, offshore oil and gas production and more permitting of energy exploration on federal lands.
The legislation would also roll back regulations on coal ash, block new Environmental Protection Agency regulations on greenhouse gas production, eliminate mandatory contributions to the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, limit medical malpractice lawsuits and increase means testing for certain government assistance programs, among other things.
"I think that weaponizing the debt ceiling is bad economic policy," Ellison said Thursday on MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes.” “I think it’s bad legislative policy, and I'm very sorry that this has happened. We can negotiate over the budget, we negotiate all the time, but to put something like the full faith and credit of the American economy on the line is just beyond the pale.”
U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, also a guest on the program, explained that increased government spending comes at a cost.
“If you want to [increase] spending, you're going to have to vote for it,” Cole said. “And maybe you want to stop and think about the course that you're on, and that's what we're talking about.”
Ellison said: “Tom's right about this. This is the purpose of the debt ceiling, this way, to say, ‘Look let's stop and look at what we're doing.’ But it's not to use as … leverage and a ransom.”
Earlier Thursday evening, Ellison debated the debt limit and the Affordable Care Act on CNN's "Crossfire."