On Sunday, December 2, Secretary Geithner appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press, CBS’ Face the Nation,
ABC’s This Week, FOX News Sunday, and CNN’s State of the Union and made the case for the Administration’s balanced approach
to reducing the deficit and strengthening economic growth.
Along with this balanced plan to reduce the deficit, Secretary
Geithner indicated that the Obama Administration supports extending the “McConnell
Provision” regarding the debt limit -- a part of last year’s Budget Control Act:
Secretary Geithner on Meet the
Press: “We made a very sensible suggestion, and let me describe what
that is. What we propose to them is they
extend what’s called the McConnell provision.
This was a solution Senator McConnell offered last summer, which was
enacted -- summer of 2011 -- which was enacted into law, supported by
Republicans. And the way that works is
the President would have the obligation periodically of requesting an increase
in the debt limit, and then Congress would have the chance, then, to express
its views on the merits of that proposal by disapproving that. And then the
President would have to decide, if a bill came to his desk, about whether to
veto that or sign it. Of course, he’d veto
it in that context. And the virtue of that mechanism proposed by Senator
McConnell, a man of impeccable conservative credentials, is to make sure that
the country is not left at risk of periodic threats of default. It’s a very good idea. It was a Republican idea. And we’re suggesting they extend it.”
The McConnell Provision received broad bipartisan support
last year. In fact, it was one of those rare policy proposals that received
support from both the Wall
Street Journal and New York Times
And for good reason. Extension of the McConnell Provision would
lift the periodic threat of default from the U.S. economy and remove politics
from future debt limit debates, while preserving Congress’ essential role in
spending, revenue and borrowing decisions.
Under the McConnell Provision, Congress would retain its
authority to disapprove any increase in the debt limit. In fact, the provision was specifically
designed to permit increases in the debt limit only after both houses of
Congress were given the opportunity to vote on whether to approve or disapprove
Extending the McConnell provision would not permit the executive branch to spend money or collect revenues without prior congressional approval. Indeed, the debt limit does not authorize new spending commitments; it simply allows the government to finance existing legal obligations that Congresses and presidents of both parties have approved in the past.
Background on the
The Budget Control Act enacted in August of 2011 included a
provision, authored by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, that provided
for expedited votes in both houses of Congress on legislation to disapprove
debt limit increases requested by the President. Congress could block an increase in the debt
limit via enactment of the disapproval legislation. However, if disapproval
legislation was not enacted, the requested debt limit increase took effect. The debt limit was increased three times
pursuant to Senator McConnell’s mechanism.
How the McConnell Provision
A congressional debt limit disapproval process consists of
the following steps:
the debt subject to the statutory debt limit is within $100 billion of the
limit, the President may request an increase in the debt limit by sending
a written certification to Congress that the outstanding debt is within
$100 billion of the debt limit, and that further borrowing is needed to
meet existing commitments.
has 15 days to deny the request, through enactment of a Joint Resolution
both the House and the Senate, consideration of the Joint Resolution of
disapproval is governed by expedited procedures.
both Chambers pass the Joint Resolution of disapproval:
is sent to the President for veto or signature.
the President vetoes the Joint Resolution, the Joint Resolution is
returned to Congress.
the President’s veto is overridden by Congress, which requires a 2/3
vote of each Chamber, then the debt limit increase request is denied.
If a Joint Resolution of disapproval is not enacted within
15 days then the debt limit is increased pursuant to the President’s
The McConnell Provision was designed to preserve the authority of Congress to disapprove increases in the debt limit, while at the same time making it possible for needed increases in the debt limit to take effect. The Administration supports extension of Senator McConnell’s mechanism in order to prevent a repeat of the 2011 debt limit ordeal and to ensure that the threat of default does not put the U.S. economy or the creditworthiness of the United States at risk in the future.
Jenni LeCompte is the Assistant Secretary for
Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Treasury