Congressional Republicans, already staring into an ugly September, awoke Thursday to new tweets from President Donald Trump accusing party leaders of bungling the debt-limit talks and, by extension, increasing the odds of a government default, The Hill reports.
Trump said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan ignored White House entreaties to lump the debt-ceiling hike with popular bipartisan legislation designed to help war veterans, a bill Trump signed into law on Wednesday.
Yet congressional sources pushed back against Trump’s claims, saying the notion of using the vets-benefits bill as a debt-ceiling vehicle, while bounced around, was rejected out of hand for fear of politicizing veterans and risking the failure of legislation that had strong bipartisan support.
“There was just no traction on it at all. We’re not going to politicize veterans’ care.” said an aide on the Veterans Affairs Committee.
Democrat leaders, meanwhile, said there have been no talks over the August break between the White House and Democrats, whose votes will be needed on any debt ceiling vote. And Ryan, who has insisted the Republicans will raise the debt ceiling before the Treasury defaults, suggested Thursday that GOP leaders are undecided how they’ll move the increase when Congress returns to Washington next month.
“There’s a bunch of different options in front of us,” Ryan told CNBC from a Boeing facility in Everett, Washington, where he’s promoting an overhaul of the tax code.
“I’m not going to, kind of, negotiate through the media, but we have a lot of options in front of us and I’m really not worried about getting this done,” he added.
Trump’s tweet on Thursday won’t ease the process, heightening the growing tensions between the president and the Republican leaders he needs to realize his ambitious policy agenda.
“I requested that Mitch M & Paul R tie the Debt Ceiling legislation into the popular V.A. Bill (which just passed) for easy approval. They didn’t do it so now we have a big deal with Dems holding them up (as usual) on Debt Ceiling approval,” Trump tweeted.
For the Republicans, there’s been nothing easy about raising the debt ceiling in recent years. What was once a routine, if unsavory, piece of budget housekeeping, the issue has morphed into an acrimonious ideological debate with the rise of Tea Party-backed conservatives who have opposed any such increase without drastic cuts to federal spending.
The vote has been a perennial headache for Republican leaders, squeezed between those deficit hawks and the Democrats, who reject the spending cuts, and whose support is essential to pass any debt-limit hike through Congress.
Applying pressure, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi put the ball squarely in the GOP’s court Thursday, emphasizing that Republicans control all the levers of power in Washington.
“With the White House, House and Senate under one party control, the American people expect and deserve a plan from Republicans to avert a catastrophic default and ensure the full faith and credit of the United States,” she said.
“With so much at risk for hard-working families, Republicans need to stop the chaos and sort themselves out in a hurry,” Pelosi added.
The Treasury Department reached the debt limit months ago, but officials are able to shuffle funds, a budgetary dance known as “extraordinary measures”, to extend their ability to make good on obligations.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last month that the agency can stave off default until Sept. 29, creating a clear deadline for Congress to act. He’s pressing for a “clean” hike, free of extraneous provisions that could threaten passage of the bill.
“I’m all for spending controls,” Mnuchin said Monday, appearing beside McConnell at an event in Louisville, Kentucky.
“But as it relates to the debt limit, this is not about spending money, it’s about paying for what we’ve spent, and we cannot put our credit on the line.” he added.
McConnell’s office did not respond Thursday to a request for comment. But like Ryan, the Senate leader has dismissed the notion that Republicans could miss the deadline for lifting the Treasury’s borrowing limit.