Paul Ryan Says Debt Ceiling Extension Likely Won't Be `Clean'

  • House speaker says bill usually includes other legislation
  • Democrats say they won’t vote for anything ‘objectionable’

House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that Republicans will likely attach some kind of additional legislation when Congress tries to address the U.S. debt ceiling, raising the risk of a showdown later this year.

Democratic leaders have said they will only support a “clean” extension, without partisan riders, but Ryan told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd that lawmakers usually include additional legislation in a bill needed to avoid having the U.S. default on its debt.

“My guess is it won’t be a clean debt ceiling hike,” Ryan said. “My guess is we’ll probably have something with it.”

The U.S. debt limit was restored Thursday, after having been suspended by Congress since 2015. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sent a letter to Ryan Thursday saying the department is beginning to take “extraordinary measures” to avoid breaching that limit in the coming months. Mnuchin urged Congress to “protect the full faith and credit of the United States.”

The administration has yet to offer a new estimate on when it will need new borrowing authority, but the Congressional Budget Office says Treasury’s measures could extend the deadline into the fall, and private estimates suggest September or October.

Whenever the debate begins in earnest, it could be a difficult one, with Republicans likely to demand some kind of spending cuts or other concessions in return for their votes to raise the debt limit.

“The good news is that you see all this leverage that is up for grabs,” Representative Dave Brat, a Virginia Republican, said. “You’ve got the debt ceiling, you’ve got an infrastructure plan, you’ve got the tax plan and the Obamacare plan. So I think that debt ceiling piece will be tied to -- and in my view it has to be tied to -- tax reform being in stone.”

Democrats are already warning of the consequences of a “phony political fight” when U.S. creditworthiness is on the line, according to Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking House Democrat. Hoyer said this week he would urge his members to vote for “a clean extension of the debt limit” that could include other elements, but nothing that would be clearly “objectionable” to his members.

“If the Republicans try to put something in the debt limit extension which they know we are opposed to, they cannot expect us to be bludgeoned into supporting something of that nature, and it will be their responsibility,” Hoyer said.

Ryan said he couldn’t offer details yet about what will be attached to the next debt extension, because “we don’t have the bill yet.”

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