Only 16 House Republicans who are currently in office backed the last “clean” debt hike, whereas few of them intend to support it this year.
If the debt ceiling is raised with a clean hike, a distinct possibility given Democratic demands and the narrow, 52-seat majority for the GOP in the Senate, Republicans will need at least 24 members of their own conference, to back a clean debt bill in the House, The Hill reports.
Speaker Paul Ryan, who would be charged with convincing Republicans to back the bill, voted against the clean-debt hike in 2014 when he was still chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Only 28 Republicans backed it, and 12 of them are no longer in Congress.
In the Senate, every Republican opposed the bill the clean debt-ceiling bill on final passage.
This will be the first time in more than a decade that Republicans will have to raise the debt ceiling while controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress.
That political dynamic puts all of the responsibility for raising the debt ceiling on the GOP, and little if any on Democrats. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will not want to give slack to vulnerable Republicans who don’t want to back the debt ceiling hike for their own party president, The Hill comments.
“I don’t see Democrats bailing out Republicans, just like Republicans didn’t bail out Democrats. They’ll say ‘we’re going to give you the same amount of help you gave us,”said Steve Bell, senior advisor at the Bipartisan Policy Center and a former staff director of the Senate Budget Committee.
In the spring, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer suggested that Democrats could withhold support from a clean debt hike if Republicans separately press for legislation cutting taxes on the wealthy.
They later said that Democrats would back a clean debt hike, but Pelosi will want as many Republicans as possible to support it since their party controls the White House. And the tax talk has given an argument to any liberal who chooses to oppose a debt ceiling hike.
Dent, a longtime centrist GOP leader, acknowledged more Republicans will probably have to take that step.
“Guess what? We’ll need at least 24 Republicans, and it should be a much larger number than that,” he said.
Only four of the 16 House Republicans who backed the clean debt ceiling in 2014 suggested they would consider voting for a clean debt hike this year: Representatives Charlie Dent, Darrel Issa, Peter King and David Valadao.
Conservative Republicans are already pressing Ryan to tie spending cuts or budgetary reforms to a debt-limit bill, signaling they do not plan on changing their strategy with fellow Republican Donald Trump in the White House.
The Trump administration has given mixed signals about the debt ceiling. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has called for a clean debt hike and initially said it should be done before the August recess. He has since said a vote could take place in September.
Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney, a former House Republican who demanded steep budgetary restrictions to be tied to the debt limit hike, said there should not be a clean debt hike vote. Some Republicans who backed a clean debt-hike in 2014 are expressing confidence that the votes will be there in 2017.
“If you write the purchase order, the goods are delivered, you’ve agreed to pay for it, and suddenly you’re saying ‘well I hit my limit,’ well no, your limit was determined by your decision to write the purchase order and accept the goods”, Representative Darrell Issa said.