UPDATE 1-Democratic congressional leaders vow to address U.S. debt limit

(Updates with comments from Schumer and Yellen, context)

Nov 13 (Reuters) – Democratic congressional leaders vowed on Sunday to tackle the national debt ceiling in coming weeks, saying their party’s election wins gave them leverage even as Republicans have promised a potentially explosive fight.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have said they will act while President Joe Biden’s Democratic colleagues control both chambers.

“Our best move, I think, is…to do it now,” Pelosi told ABC News’ “This Week.” “Winning the Senate gave us a lot of influence on how we move forward…in the lame duck,” she said.

Schumer said Senate Democratic leaders would meet this week to discuss the legislative path forward, though he declined to elaborate.

“The debt ceiling, of course, is something we have to deal with. And it’s something we’ll be looking at over the next few weeks,” he said.

Democrats took control of the Senate late Saturday. It is still unclear which party will control the House.

Biden’s Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has urged lawmakers to act before the new Congress sits in January, with the $31.4 trillion national credit line expected to run out in the first quarter of 2023.

The debt ceiling must be approved each time it needs to be raised in order to prevent the United States from defaulting, which would have catastrophic effects.

The mechanism is supposed to control the country’s growing debt, although it has been ineffective in recent decades.

Republicans have said the debt ceiling would be an “important tool” to rein in federal spending if they take control of the House.

Pelosi warned Republicans would use the debt fight to target two popular health insurance and income programs for older Americans, Medicare and Social Security.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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