Washington Watch: As Congress returns, Democrats weigh end run around Republicans to raise debt limit

United States

U.S. lawmakers on Monday are getting back to work in Washington, D.C., after a break for the midterm elections,  and one action that Democrats in Congress are considering is trying to raise the debt limit before year’s end.

That’s as control of the House of Representatives remained undecided in the wake of the midterms, but Republicans were favored to win, while Democrats were projected to retain their hold on the Senate.

Analysts have been predicting that Republicans seizing just partial control of Congress would heighten the risk of a debt-ceiling showdown next year that could rattle markets SPX, +0.24%, and GOP comments in late October reinforced the view that party leaders could use the issue to force spending cuts.

So what could Democrats do before the start of the 118th Congress in January?

“Democrats should fight back by making this lame-duck session of Congress the most productive in decades,” said influential Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in a New York Times op-ed over the weekend.

“We can start by lifting the debt ceiling now to block Republicans from taking our economy hostage next year,” she added

Democrats can raise the debt limit “by using the last unused tool for a majority vote in the Senate: the fiscal year 2023 reconciliation bill,” said The American Prospect, a progressive media outlet, last week. It also said “the need to prevent a debt limit hostage” is one priority that “shines above everything else.”

In a similar vein, Roll Call reported earlier this month that top Democrats have been privately discussing the possibility of using the budget reconciliation process in the lame-duck session to hike the debt limit.

Other issues that could see action before year’s end are Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s permitting package for the energy sector XLE, +1.06%, as well as a bill that seeks to protect banks that work with the cannabis industry MSOS, +4.16%.

In addition, Washington needs to approve a funding bill in order to avoid a partial government shutdown after Dec. 16, and lawmakers are aiming to address an annual defense bill and trade-related issues.

U.S. stocks DJIA, +0.37% gained Monday, building on last week’s sharp rally that was driven in large part by better-than-expected data on inflation.