House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) promised on Wednesday never to use the debt limit as a bargaining chip under a Republican president if she becomes Speaker again.
TPM asked her during a Capitol press availability if she would categorically rule out threatening default by taking the debt limit hostage, as Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is doing now.
“Yes, I would be willing to say, don’t mess with the debt limit. Don’t mess with the debt limit,” Pelosi said. “Whatever luxury you want to be afforded to make your point, get attention — that’s a luxury we can’t afford. So yes, I would say yes to that question.”
The minority leader and 185 other Democrats unveiled a letter supporting President Barack Obama’s call for a “clean” debt limit increase. The government’s borrowing authority will expire on Oct. 17, at which point the country may have to default on its debt if Congress doesn’t act.
The debt limit was raised seven times under President George W. Bush — including three times when Pelosi was speaker, in Sept. 2007, July 2008 and Oct. 2008. Pelosi and her colleagues never took it hostage to seek ideological concessions.
The top House Democrat also contended that the debt limit is unconstitutional, an argument that Obama has refrained from making.
“We shouldn’t even be doing this. The full faith and credit of the United States of America is an established fact,” she said. “I think the 14th Amendment covers it. The president and I have a disagreement in that regard, I guess. I would never have taken that off the table.”
Pelosi, along with House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), also pointed out that Democrats helped Bush pass the highly unpopular bank bailout when the economy was in free fall in 2008 and needed to be stabilized.
“At that moment of truth, the Democrats were there to support the initiative — we improved it — of a Republican president to bail out his problem created by his economic policies because was important for our country,” Pelosi said.