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Deputy House Whip: 'Clean' Debt Ceiling Hike Sought by White House is 'Tough Sell'

A top House Republican predicted this morning that the debt ceiling hike needed by the end of September will be “probably not clean” like the White House wants.

Congress will have to take up debt ceiling negotiations when they return after Labor Day as the Sept. 29 deadline looms.

“To ensure that we have robust economic growth and to promote fiscal discipline, the Trump administration believes it’s important to raise the debt ceiling as soon as possible,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Aug. 1 when asked if a hike could get done in time. “Over the past two decades, members of Congress and presidents from both parties have raised the debt ceiling 15 times, and we look forward to working with Congress to ensure the full faith and credit of the United States government.”

According to the Treasury Department, the debt ceiling has been raised by Congress 78 times since 1960, 20 more instances under GOP administrations.

“Based upon our available information, I believe that it is critical that Congress act to increase the nation’s borrowing authority by September 29, 2017,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin recently wrote to lawmakers. “I urge Congress to act promptly on this important matter.”

The current debt limit is $19.8 trillion. The White House wants a “clean” raising of the ceiling, with no offsets like spending cuts attached.

But Deputy Majority Whip Tom Cole (R-Okla.) told MSNBC this morning that he doesn’t see that happening in the House.

“Most Republicans want to do something to lower the trajectory of the debt. I mean, a clean debt ceiling hike is like having a credit card and saying I’ve reached my limit, I’m just going to change the limit higher without changing any of my spending habits. That’s a tough sell to Republicans,” Cole said. “Democrats seem to be fine with that, but I think most of my colleagues aren’t.”

“I certainly would listen to any argument the president made, but, no, I much prefer to do something. And we’ve done that in the past, by the way, where we actually do something to lower the debt and deficit long-term. It’s not — doesn’t have to be dollar for dollar, but you have to show some progress here,” he added.

“This idea we can go on spending interminably and just simply raise the debt ceiling every time? Sooner or later the credit markets are going to make that impossible to do. So let’s reassure them and show that we’re serious about lowering the deficits and eventually the long-term debt.”

Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, wrote in an Examiner op-ed Monday that a “‘clean’ increase would simply increase the borrowing authority of the government while irresponsibly ignoring the urgency of reforms.”

“Let’s be clear. The debt ceiling needs to be raised. Nobody is advocating for a course of action that risks a fiscal crisis for the country. But the debt ceiling increase needs to be accompanied by reforms to address the problems that cause it. We can’t afford to kick this can down the road. Otherwise, Republicans lose credibility the next time we point out (as we often do) that the national debt is a serious problem,” Walker wrote.

“…Another problem with a ‘clean’ increase is that if it lacks the votes to pass, which appears to be so, congressional leaders load it up with even more increased spending and must-pass legislation to attract the necessary votes.”

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) told MSNBC on Thursday that solving the national debt is “going to require some kind of grand bargain, something along the lines of the Simpson-Bowles kind of approach.”

“And no one party in control of both chambers and the White House is going to risk that on their own,” Flake added. “You have to reach across the aisle. And that — it is a conservative thing to solve that problem. But we won’t do that if we continue to believe that we can do it all by ourselves as Republicans. We have to reach across the aisle.”