House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said he doubts any increase to the federal debt limit could pass the House by itself, potentially setting up a fall showdown over the issue as Treasury fights to avoid default.
House Democratic leaders have said they would want a so-called clean debt limit hike—with no other controversial policies attached—in exchange for their support should Republicans be unable to muster the needed votes on their side of the aisle. Since taking power in 2011, House Republicans have often had difficulty wrangling those votes.
“My guess is it won’t be a clean debt ceiling. I don’t remember when we’ve done one of those. We’ve always done something where we bring legislation attached to it as well,” Ryan said in an interview on CNN March 16.
“We have been discussing with Treasury the need to address this and the various options we have,” Ryan said. “We will come up with a solution and we’ll handle this.”
Ryan’s comments came as the Treasury Department formally notified Congress March 16 it was at the limit and was taking more steps to avoid breaching it.
“I respectfully urge Congress to protect the full faith and credit of the United States by acting to increase the statutory debt limit as soon as possible,” Mnuchin said in a letter sent to Democratic and Republican congressional leaders. He said he had taken the first of a series of “extraordinary measures"—basically, accounting maneuvers—to stay below the limit by suspending issues of special Treasury securities to state and local governments.
Mnuchin said he also planned to stop regular investments in three government retirement and benefit funds to stay below the limit. The funds would be made whole again after the debt limit is increased or again suspended, as has been the case in the past.
The debt ceiling has been suspended since late 2015, with the suspension ending March 15. The ceiling reset March 16 at a higher level to include debt incurred during the suspension period but also leaving Treasury at the limit. According to Treasury data, the debt subject to the limit stood at $19.866 trillion as of March 15.
The accounting moves, along with incoming tax revenues, are expected to give Treasury breathing room to keep borrowing at least into early fall. The Bipartisan Policy Center has projected Treasury has enough room to keep borrowing until October or November, but other forecasts have estimated Treasury could run out of room in September.
Republicans already have a full legislative plate for the upcoming months, with health-care legislation, a continuing resolution to wrap up appropriations for fiscal 2017, a fiscal 2018 budget resolution and an overhaul of the tax code. But if they delay dealing with the debt limit, it could increase Democrats’ leverage should the GOP need their votes to pass a debt limit hike.
Democrats have already said they will not be backed into a corner on the issue.
“A) We will support a clean debt limit extension, period. B) We will not, however, be put in a position where the Republicans irresponsibly put the debt creditworthiness of the United States at risk by putting something in the bill that is objectionable to us, and they can’t get the votes on their side to extend the debt limit,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters March 14.
However, Hoyer said items that were agreed upon by both parties could go into a debt limit hike, as has happened in the past.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Nicholson in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at pHendrie@bna.com
Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)