Republicans will likely demand concessions from Democrats and President Barack Obama in exchange for an agreement to raise the debt ceiling in 2014, the top Senate Republican signaled Tuesday, setting up what could be another heated showdown in the new year.
Although Congress is poised to agree to a two-year bipartisan budget resolution that will avoid the possibility of a government shutdown next year, the federal Treasury is expected to reach its borrowing limit again sometime in 2014. In October, Republicans in Congress reluctantly agreed to a “clean” debt ceiling hike — one with no major policy strings attached — as part of the deal to end the government shutdown. But on Tuesday, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell predicted it wouldn’t happen again next year when the issue comes up.
“I can’t imagine it being done clean,” McConnell said of the next time Obama asks Congress to raise the borrowing limit. “The debt ceiling legislation is a time that brings us all together and gets the president’s attention, which with this president, particularly when it comes to reducing spending, has been a bit of a challenge.”
Despite early Republican rumblings about demanding some kind of compromise deal to raise the debt ceiling, Democrats are already indicating that they will insist on a clean hike.
“I can’t imagine the Republicans will want another fight on the debt ceiling,” Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday. “We passed two debt ceilings in the very recent past, and we should do another one.”
(One might hope that the two top power brokers in the U.S. Senate would be a tad more imaginative.)
Although the demands for a debt ceiling hike will likely originate in the House, a chamber controlled by Republicans, House GOP leaders have not declared a strategic plan yet on the legislation. Republican House Speaker John Boehner plans to discuss the issue with members of the conference “in the weeks ahead,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told Yahoo News.
Earlier this year, House Republicans opted to use the threat of a government shutdown in an attempt to pursue their policy agenda instead of tying demands to the debt ceiling hike — a strategy Boehner and his allies originally opposed. For months before the shutdown, Obama vowed that he would accept nothing short of a “clean” debt ceiling hike and surprised many Republicans when he refused to back away from his pledge.
And next year, presumably, they'll do it all over again.