Senate leaders would be open to a short-term increase in the debt ceiling, a Senate Democratic aide said yesterday. Democrats would insist that any subsequent debt-limit increases wouldn’t require agreement by the parties on long-term fiscal and health-care policy.
Representative Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, said lawmakers may need more time to on the debt ceiling “to make sure we get it right.” Republicans, he told reporters yesterday, “are not for defaulting.”
Advancing a debt-limit bill without major policy conditions through the House could prove difficult and might require Boehner to seek Democratic votes. Republicans control a 232-200 majority in the House.
“If you had a clean debt-ceiling increase without any kind of reforms to control spending that would probably lead to another downgrade in our credit ratings,” Representative Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican and head of the Republican Study Committee, told reporters yesterday. The group includes lawmakers who advocate for smaller government.
Democrats, who control 54 seats in the 100-member Senate, would need the support of at least six Republicans on procedural votes to pass their bill.
The bill from Reid would suspend the debt ceiling through Dec. 31, 2014. Because the Treasury Department can use what are called extraordinary measures to stave off default, another increase wouldn’t be needed until sometime in 2015. The previous debt-limit suspension expired on May 18 and the extraordinary measures are lasting five months.
Some Senate Republicans, including Susan Collins of Maine, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, didn’t rule out backing the Democrats’ plan. They said they must first see details.
One Republican senator -- Mark Kirk of Illinois -- said he would support a “clean” debt-ceiling measure.
The government shutdown started Oct. 1 after Republicans insisted that further funding for many programs must be tied to a one-year delay in the mandate that individuals who lack health insurance purchase it.
Obama and Senate Democrats refused, and the resulting furloughs and agency shutdowns have slowed mortgage closings, small-business loans and nutrition assistance to poor mothers. Some programs, such as Social Security, continue uninterrupted.
The House has taken a series of bipartisan votes to fund narrow pieces of the government, including the Food and Drug Administration and military death benefits. The House is now scheduled to be in session on Saturday, Oct. 12.
Obama and Senate Democrats reject the piecemeal approach, saying Republicans shouldn’t pick and choose politically popular items.