Don’t expect the relative fiscal peace on the Hill engendered by the budget deal to last for long. Top Republicans are already looking ahead to the next fight: the debt ceiling.
“I doubt that the House, or, for that matter, the Senate, is willing to give the president a clean debt-ceiling increase,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday.
McConnell appeared to defer to his House GOP counterparts to figure out what, exactly, they can extract using the leverage of the debt ceiling. “I can’t imagine it being done ‘clean,’ so we’ll have to see what the House insists on adding to it as a condition for passage.”
His comments come after House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan said over the weekend that his caucus, with Senate counterparts, will have to “meet and discuss what it is we want out of the debt limit.”
“We don’t want nothing out of this debt limit,” Paul said on Fox News Sunday. “We’re going to decide what it is we can accomplish out of this debt-limit fight.”
Congress may not have to face the prospect of raising the country’s borrowing limit until March, or maybe even as late as June, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
McConnell, who has been relatively mum on the debt limit in the government-shutdown aftermath, still eyes the debt limit as something that Republicans can use to get something out of the administration and Democratic congressional leaders.
“Every time the president asks us to raise the debt ceiling is a good time to try and achieve something important for the country, and as you all know, many significant pieces of legislation have been attached to debt ceilings over the years,” McConnell said Tuesday. “The debt-ceiling legislation is a time that brings us all together and gets the president’s attention, which with this president in particular when it comes to reducing spending, is a bit of a challenge.”
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"Even if House Republicans manage to get enough members of their party on board with the latest version of their health care bill, they will face another battle in the Senate: whether the bill complies with the chamber’s arcane ... Byrd rule, which stipulates all provisions in a reconciliation bill must affect federal spending and revenues in a way that is not merely incidental." Democrats should have the advantage in that fight, "unless the Senate pulls another 'nuclear option.'”
The House has passed a one-week spending bill that will avert a government shutdown which was set to begin at midnight. Lawmakers now have an extra week to come to a longer agreement which is expected to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass before President Trump signs it.
President Trump’s portrayal of an effort to funnel more Medicaid dollars to Puerto Rico as a "bailout" is complicating negotiations over a continuing resolution on the budget. "House Democrats are now requiring such assistance as a condition for supporting the continuing resolution," a position that the GOP leadership is amenable to. "But Mr. Trump’s apparent skepticism aligns him with conservative House Republicans inclined to view its request as a bailout, leaving the deal a narrow path to passage in Congress."
Democrats in the House are threatening to shut down the government if Republicans expedite a vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, said Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer Thursday. Lawmakers have introduced a one-week spending bill to give themselves an extra week to reach a long-term funding deal, which seemed poised to pass easily. However, the White House is pressuring House Republicans to take a vote on their Obamacare replacement Friday to give Trump a legislative victory, though it is still not clear that they have the necessary votes to pass the health care bill. This could go down to the wire.