Van Hollen: Biden group hasn't discussed short-term debt hike

Negotiators led by Vice President Biden haven't discussed a short-term hike to the debt ceiling, Rep. Chris Van Hollen said Monday. 

“That has not been part of our conversation," Van Hollen, the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, said in an interview on MSNBC. "We have been focused on a deal that will prevent us from defaulting through the end of next year. That has been the goal, that is Plan A,” Van Hollen said. 

He added that if negotiators are not able to reach a deal by Aug. 2, when Treasury anticipates the ceiling will be breached, “you have to look at plan B.”

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Van Hollen's comments follow a statement by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who said Sunday he could support a short-term extension of the debt ceiling. He also suggested such an extension was likely if Democrats do not agree to entitlement reforms as part of the Biden-led talks.

“The president and the vice president, everybody knows you have to tackle entitlement reform. If we can't do that, then we'll probably end up with a very short-term proposal over, you know, a few months. And we'll be back having the same discussion again in the fall,” McConnell said on "Face the Nation."

Van Hollen reiterated that “nobody should be playing this game of chicken with default." He also said a debt ceiling deal should be "fair and balanced" by including increased revenue through tax increases. A deal that includes too many near-term spending cuts could shock the economy, he warned. 

A Democratic leadership aide accused McConnell of undermining the talks with his comments.

“Democrats are committed to responsibly reducing the deficit through shared sacrifice; both deficit reduction and revenues must be on the table. Leader McConnell’s comments undermine the ongoing, good faith deficit reduction talks led by the vice president,” the aide said.

Another aide said that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) “would still like to see a longer-term extension” of the debt ceiling.

The Biden talks will convene again Tuesday afternoon in the Capitol. Meetings are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday as well.

Van Hollen said Friday has been kept open and that negotiators will try to get a deal by the end of this week. Failure to do so would mean more meetings next week during the House July 4 recess. The group has set a deadline of having a deal in principle by July 1.