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Jonathan Bernstein

Dump the Debt Ceiling Before Republicans Win the House

Democrats should act while they still control Congress to erase the possibility of a government default.

Raise the ceiling.

Raise the ceiling.

Photographer: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

It’s time: Congressional Democrats need to get the ball rolling on ending the risk of defaulting on the nation’s debt. If they don't tackle this before the current term ends, we run the risk that a Republican House majority will be irresponsible enough to allow a default to happen. That’s why the Democrats should seize the opportunity during the lame-duck period after the Nov. 8 midterms to eliminate the borrowing cap entirely.

The reason this is so pressing is that the US has a law limiting the amount of debt the government can borrow. Since the federal government almost always runs a deficit, the total amount of debt is almost always increasing, which means that periodically the limit must be raised as well. But because the government sets the limit, and the government also decides how much to borrow, the law is entirely superfluous; it’s as if credit card limits were set by the cardholder and not the card issuer.