House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) on Thursday signaled that Democrats have little interest in moving a discharge petition to force a House floor vote on a clean debt limit increase.  

He said it’s up to Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to bring forward a bill to avoid a national default, noting that Republicans supported increasing the nation’s borrowing authority under former President Trump.  

“The most viable option right now is for the extreme MAGA [Make America Great Again] Republicans in the House to get their act together and do what they consistently did when Donald Trump was the president of the United States of America,” he told reporters Thursday at a press conference about how a national default would hurt the U.S. economy.  

Jeffries noted that “three times the House raised the debt ceiling” when Trump was president “without fanfare because the consequences of even threatening a default are so significant.” 

“Certainly spiraling the country into a default would be devastating,” he said after he and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) presented a report by Democrats on the Joint Economic Committee projecting that a default would cost workers $20,000 in lost retirement savings because of the impact on the economy and likely require new homeowners to pay an extra $55,000 because of higher interest rates. 

Asked to clarify that Democrats do not see a discharge petition as a viable option to circumvent McCarthy’s control of the House floor, Jeffries responded: “Right now, the option that is front of us are the extreme MAGA Republicans doing the right thing by the American people.”  

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that top House Democrats had shelved, at least for a while, the prospect of collecting signatures from a majority of House members on a discharge petition to for a clean bill to raise the debt ceiling to the House floor for a vote.  

Using a discharge petition to circumvent the Speaker is a time-consuming and laborious process as it requires collecting 218 signatures and the measure in question has to sit in committee for at least 30 days. 

Furthermore, a discharge motion can only be offered at least seven days after it is entered on the discharge calendar and it must be offered either on the second or fourth Monday of each month.  

Schumer told reporters that Democrats are willing to negotiate spending caps with House Republicans but insisted that must be part of a conversation about funding federal programs in 2024 and “should not be part of the debt-ceiling debate.” 

“We understand we have to negotiate a budget, as we’ve done in previous years,” he said. “We’re going to have to come together, Democrats and Republicans, and hopefully pass a budget, not a [continuing resolution] but an omnibus. We did it last year.”