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After deal, debt limit talk still permeates debates

Niels Lesniewski, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Policymakers are still talking about last week's surprise deal to fund the government and suspend the debt limit, and they might be talking about it for a while.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has thrown cold water on the idea of abolishing the debt ceiling.

The idea gained some traction last week after reports that President Donald Trump and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer had agreed to look at ways to end the practice of Congress needing to suspend the limit on federal borrowing.

"We will not be revisiting the debt ceiling until sometime next year and getting Congress to give up a tool like that would probably be quite a challenging undertaking," McConnell said. "My assumption is that the debt ceiling will continue."

The debt limit is a significant leverage point in the relationship between the legislative and executive branches, since not raising the debt limit is unthinkable to most all leadership figures.

On a press call earlier Tuesday, Schumer brushed aside comments McConnell made to The New York Times that Democrats celebrated too early their victory on the September deal that extended the debt limit and included a continuing resolution until Dec. 8.

"If they used extraordinary measures ... there would be two cliffs instead of one," Schumer said. "I don't know why they would want to do that."

But in any case, the Treasury Department's deploying of "extraordinary measures" -- such as rearranging funds related to federal retirement accounts -- has become entirely routine.

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer acknowledged Tuesday that the debt ceiling deadline can be pushed into 2018 with extraordinary measures but like Schumer, he disputed the notion that doing so would take away Democratic leverage in the December spending negotiations.

"They have never passed a fiscal bill, including Harvey relief ... without Democratic votes," Hoyer said.

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