Mitch McConnell Is Setting Up Another Debt-Ceiling Fight

With just a month to go until the limit is reached, the Senate minority leader is looking for a showdown.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) arrives at a press conference, September 26, 2013 in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Matt Berman
See more stories about...
Matt Berman
Jan. 26, 2014, 5:25 a.m.

It’s a month end­ing with a “y” or “r,” so that means it’s time for an­oth­er polit­ic­al fight over the debt ceil­ing.

On Fox News Sunday, Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell made it clear he’s go­ing to push for policy riders on an in­crease in the debt ceil­ing.{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4677) }}

“I think for the pres­id­ent to ask for a clean debt ceil­ing, when we have a debt the size of our eco­nomy, is ir­re­spons­ible,” Mc­Con­nell said Sunday. “So we ought to dis­cuss adding something to his re­quest to raise the debt ceil­ing that does something about the debt or pro­duces at least something pos­it­ive for our coun­try.” And while Mc­Con­nell again in­sisted that the U.S. would not de­fault on its debt, he ad­ded “We ought to at­tach something sig­ni­fic­ant for the coun­try to his re­quest to in­crease the debt ceil­ing.”

The U.S. debt lim­it must be raised by the end of Feb­ru­ary, says Treas­ury Sec­ret­ary Jac­ob Lew, if the U.S. is not to de­fault on its debt. Lew asked Con­gress in a let­ter Wed­nes­day to raise the lim­it by Feb­ru­ary 7.

Right now, es­pe­cially after what happened last fall, it’s hard to see the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion com­prom­ising on a “clean” debt-lim­it ex­ten­sion, which would have no oth­er policies or spend­ing cuts at­tached. But Mc­Con­nell isn’t the only one look­ing for a fight. “The speak­er has said that we should not de­fault on our debt, or even get close to it, but a ‘clean’ debt lim­it in­crease simply won’t pass in the House,” John Boehner’s spokes­man Mi­chael Steel said this week.

Back in Oc­to­ber, GOP lead­ers agreed to pass a clean ex­ten­sion of the debt ceil­ing at the last minute as part of the deal to end the gov­ern­ment shut­down, but did so without the sup­port of most House Re­pub­lic­ans. Now, with elec­tions com­ing up, a vote to ex­tend the lim­it is even harder for some mem­bers to stom­ach. 

With the State of the Uni­on and the an­nu­al Re­pub­lic­an re­treat com­ing up this week, there’s even less time than there may seem for Con­gress to deal with the ceil­ing. It’s go­ing to be a busy couple of weeks, and we may have yet an­oth­er dead­line debt-lim­it stan­doff right around the corner.

What We're Following See More »
GOP Budget Chiefs Won’t Invite Administration to Testify
17 hours ago

The administration will release its 2017 budget blueprint tomorrow, but the House and Senate budget committees won’t be inviting anyone from the White House to come talk about it. “The chairmen of the House and Senate Budget committees released a joint statement saying it simply wasn’t worth their time” to hear from OMB Director Shaun Donovan. Accusing the members of pulling a “Donald Trump,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the move “raises some questions about how confident they are about the kinds of arguments that they could make.”

Snowstorm Could Impact Primary Turnout
13 hours ago

A snowstorm is supposed to hit New Hampshire today and “linger into Primary Tuesday.” GOP consultant Ron Kaufman said lower turnout should help candidates who have spent a lot of time in the state tending to retail politicking. Donald Trump “has acknowledged that he needs to step up his ground-game, and a heavy snowfall could depress his figures relative to more organized candidates.”

A Shake-Up in the Offing in the Clinton Camp?
8 hours ago

Anticipating a primary loss in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Hillary and Bill Clinton “are considering staffing and strategy changes” to their campaign. Sources tell Politico that the Clintons are likely to layer over top officials with experienced talent, rather than fire their staff en masse.