Crowded GOP agenda could mean delay in raising debt limit

The Trump administration is asking Congress to raise the nation's debt limit before Congress breaks for its August recess.  But there are a lot of issues Congress is trying to address, including health care overhaul and a historic tax bill, which could mean a delay in passing a debt ceiling measure to keep the government operating.

Washington Examiner:

The latest chapter of the debt ceiling saga will be the first in years to be steered by Republicans in Congress and the White House. But while November's election victory for Republicans led to expectations of a new way of addressing the issue, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin started the process by asking something that President Obama had routinely requested in the past: a "clean" increase in the ceiling with no strings attached, to ensure the government could keep on borrowing.

On March 16, Washington reached the end of an 18-month period in which it had suspended the debt ceiling, meaning it could borrow whatever it needed without worrying about limits. Once that ended, the total amount of government debt, $19.486 trillion, became the new ceiling.

The Treasury Department immediately took steps to reduce borrowing to keep the government from breaking through the ceiling. But Treasury can juggle the books for only so long, and is expected to require a higher ceiling by the fall.

"My strong preference is for the House and the Senate to address this as soon as possible," Mnuchin told a Senate Budget Committee hearing, "and my preference is for you to do this before you leave for the August recess."

But while Republicans in the Senate are weighing a debt ceiling vote in July, the issue has not reached the top of the House GOP agenda.

Senate Republicans are desperate to pass a healthcare reform bill in time to send it to the House before their summer vacations. They also are hoping to repeal and replace Obamacare and get that huge issue off their plate so there is time to tackle comprehensive tax reform, which ties with healthcare as a top GOP priority. Senate Republicans may vote on a bill this week, but it would then also need to be agreed by the House GOP in the coming weeks.

It complicates matters further that House GOP lawmakers are also pondering a summer vote on appropriations for the next fiscal year. President Trump has requested spending in fiscal 2018 that is far higher than caps imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011. The request for defense spending, for example, is $603 billion, $54 billion more than the caps allow.

Appropriators want to spend even more than that, which will need another budget deal akin to previous two-year deals. That can't be done unless Republicans and Democrats work together. Democrats, however, demand a dollar of extra non-defense spending for every extra dollar that goes to the Pentagon.

This semi-annual exercise in political posturing when the debt limit needs to be raised needs to go.  The borrowing that will be added to the debt limit rise has already been appropriated.  But lawmakers see an opportunity to add all sorts of riders to the debt ceiling legislation, holding it hostage for their pet issues.  It is a monumental waste of time.

The time to fight the rising national debt is during the debate over appropriations.  It is there that the deficit spending that constantly adds to the national debt, forcing a rise in the debt limit, is found.  But no one wants to make the kind of cuts necessary to bring down the deficit and slow the rise of our national debt, so the only opportunity lawmakers have to show they "care" about our debt is when the vote to raise the ceiling on it occurs.

Cut the crap and raise the debt ceiling.  Then take a good, sharp knife to appropriations and start to bring fiscal sanity back to government spending.  Anything else is political theater.

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