Senate leadership and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin held a closed-door meeting on Tuesday as they try to plot a path toward increasing the debt ceiling. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he, Mnuchin, and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had a “good meeting” in his office off the Senate floor.
“We had a good meeting … in my office to discuss the raising of the debt ceiling, which we all know will need to be done sometime in the next month or so,” McConnell told reporters.
“We are going to be looking for a way forward to do that together to make sure America continues to never, ever default,” he added.
Mnuchin has warned congressional leaders that the U.S. will hit the country’s debt limit in late September. That means that a fight over raising the debt ceiling could be pressed up against the October 1 deadline to fund the government and avoid a shutdown.
Democrats are putting the onus on Republicans to come up with a plan for how to raise the debt ceiling, citing GOP majorities in Congress and the party’s control of the White House.
Schumer noted after the meeting that “we don’t know where the White House is”.
“We don’t know where the White House is, because they have different factions who are saying different things, and there were two people missing at that meeting: Speaker Paul Ryan and Leader Nancy Pelosi,” he said.
“The key here is the House. The Republicans that are in charge — where is the House? Where are the House Republicans, and where is Speaker Ryan? Before we can address the debt limit, we have to know where they’re at,” Schumer added on Tuesday.
Increasing the debt ceiling will force Republican leadership to balance demands from both sides of the political spectrum. In the House, Ryan will have to overcome conservative GOP lawmakers who want a vote tied to spending cuts.
In the Senate, Republicans will need the support of at least eight Democrats to overcome the 60-vote procedural threshold.
Mnuchin has urged Congress to pass a “clean” debt ceiling bill, which would require GOP leadership to buck their conservative wing. Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget chief and a former House member, backed tying the vote to entitlement reform and spending cuts when he was in Congress.
Mnuchin wanted lawmakers to wrap up the debt ceiling before they left for the August recess, but the House left town last week. The Senate is currently scheduled to be in session through next week, following its failure to pass a healthcare bill.
Congress has previously flirted with the debt limit deadline, spooking the markets and causing ratings agency S&P to downgrade the U.S. credit rating.