WASHINGTON, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- On Thursday, the United States hit its debt limit, which limits how much can be borrowed to pay the debt incurred over the past few decades.

The U.S. Treasury Department is taking steps in order to keep the government running as long as possible.

Senators Tim Kaine and Jeff Merkley say failing to avert a default would be catastrophic, and they have introduced a bill to reform the process of raising the debt ceiling.

“Congress has an urgent responsibility to pass legislation to keep our country from defaulting on its debt incurred under Republican and Democratic Administrations. If we fail to do so because of irresponsible political brinksmanship, we’ll see higher borrowing costs, a financial crisis, and basic government functions thrown into chaos, from Medicaid and Social Security to servicemember pay and food safety inspections,” they said. “This threatened crisis shows why we need to pass our Protect Our CREDIT Act, which would help prevent any party from holding the debt limit hostage for political gain. Rather than playing political games with something as important as the debt limit, we should be taking default off the table.”

According to a release, the Protect our Citizens from Reckless Extortion of our Debt and Irresponsible Tactics Act of 2021, or the Protect our CREDIT Act, would require the sitting president to begin the process before the beginning of the fiscal year.

This would determine the amount of debt necessary for that year and propose a new limit based on the amount of spending authorized and appropriated by Congress.

The bill would also raise the debt ceiling to the proposed limit unless Congress passes and the sitting president signs a joint resolution of disapproval within 15 legislative days.

Third, if the debt gets within $250 billion of the limit during the year, the sitting president shall need to submit a written certification explaining what is behind the need for additional debt and proposing a new limit for the remainder of the fiscal year.

This would still be subject to the congressional disapproval process.

The release says the idea of having a sitting president increase the debt ceiling in this manner, still subject to a congressional disapproval vote, was originally proposed by Senator Mitch McConnell in 2011.

That proposal was included in the Budget Control Act of 2011, which authorized a sitting president to increase the debt ceiling in three installments.

Under this system, Congress could still override such action by passing a joint resolution of disapproval.

The release says making this process for raising the debt ceiling permanent would end using the need to raise the ceiling as a tool for political leverage and protect the country from the consequences of a potential default.