House GOP Floats Short-term Debt Hike to Force Budget

For the second day in a row, a top member of House GOP Leadership has floated the idea of a short-term extension of the debt ceiling to coincide with action on the budget. The House GOP caucus is on retreat this week, mapping out its strategy for the upcoming debt and budget debates. Yesterday, Rep. Paul Ryan announced the possibility of a very short-term extension in a speech to the caucus. Today, Bloomberg reports that Rep. McCarthy, the Whip, echoed this call with some more details. 

A member of the House Republican leadership said consensus is growing among party members to craft “a very short-term” U.S. debt-limit increase to force the Senate to adopt a budget plan.

A debt-limit increase probably would last “until the time” Congress is supposed to adopt a budget on April 15, Representative Kevin McCarthy said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s “Capitol Gains” program airing Jan. 20.

The challenge for the GOP is that the upcoming debate over the budget is framed around three separate events. First, the nation will hit the debt ceiling sometime in mid to late February. On March 2nd, the automatic spending cuts of the "sequester" take effect. Then, at the end of March, the government's spending authority expires, forcing a possible shutdown.

It is politically difficult to take on each of these events separately. There is also growing frustration among Republicans that the Senate has failed to produce a budget for the past four years, requiring a series of continuing resolutions. These are difficult vehicles to secure the spending cuts the nation needs to bring down the deficit. 

The statements by Ryan and McCarthy are the first signs of the GOP's strategy on the debate. A short-term extension of the debt ceiling, through April or May, would enable all three events to be wrapped into a single negotiation. It would also put pressure on Senate Democrats to put forward a budget. 

The debt debate has been building for months. It begins today. 

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