Lew assures Dems: Obama won't bend

The White House on Tuesday assured Democrats that President Obama will not negotiate with the GOP over a debt-ceiling hike.

ADVERTISEMENT
Briefing House Democrats in the Capitol, Treasury Secretary Jack LewJacob (Jack) Joseph LewBipartisan bill would force Treasury to put Tubman on bill Top conservative rails against ‘clean’ debt limit increase Trump mocked Obama for three chiefs of staff in three years MORE said Obama has no intention of making concessions to Republicans in return for legislation to raise the borrowing limit.

"The secretary articulated once again [that] we don't negotiate the livelihood of American families to extract concessions that have nothing to do with moving the economy forward," House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOvernight Regulation: Trump temporarily lifts Jones Act for Puerto Rico | Bill would exempt some banks from Dodd-Frank | Senators unveil driverless car bill Calif. AG: Trump backs down on greenhouse gas rule Overnight Energy: California cities sue oil giants over climate change MORE (D-Calif.) said after the meeting.

"We think that we can get this done," Becerra added, "but it's good to know that we hopefully will not have this game of Russian roulette that at least the president and Democrats won't engage in."

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he was heartened by Lew's remarks.

"We're not going to deal on it," Hoyer said bluntly.

With the government's borrowing authority estimated to expire before March, GOP leaders are grappling with how to raise the debt limit and prevent a possible default.

On one hand, they face pressure from conservatives to use the must-pass legislation to exact GOP policy priorities from the Democrats — amendments Obama says he won't entertain. On the other, they don't want to risk the economic turmoil — or the political blame — if Congress runs too close to the deadline and financial markets tank.

Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew Boehner‘Lone wolf’ characterization of mass murderers is the epitome of white privilege Pelosi urges Ryan to create select committee on gun violence Ex-congressman Michael Grimm formally announces bid for old seat MORE (R-Ohio) said Tuesday that Republicans will use their annual policy retreat, which starts Wednesday in Cambridge, Md., to decide their strategy.

"I don't think we — Republicans — want to default on our debt," he said.

But last week, John BoehnerJohn Andrew Boehner‘Lone wolf’ characterization of mass murderers is the epitome of white privilege Pelosi urges Ryan to create select committee on gun violence Ex-congressman Michael Grimm formally announces bid for old seat MORE's office warned that no debt-ceiling bill could pass through the House without Republican amendments.

"The Speaker has said that we should not default on our debt, or even get close to it, but a 'clean' debt limit increase simply won’t pass in the House," said spokesman Michael Steel.

Hoyer on Tuesday predicted Democrats could deliver roughly 200 votes for a clean debt-limit bill, meaning GOP leaders would have to come up with less than 20 Republicans to send the measure to the Senate. He argued that the conservatives calling for wish-list attachments are ignoring the fact that a clean debt-ceiling hike, by preventing a default, benefits everyone.

"Let me tell you what everybody gets, including everybody around this table: A fiscally responsible and stable nation that is perceived globally as a responsible actor," he said.
Democratic leaders said they are wondering why Republicans would champion spending bills, including the recent omnibus, and then threaten to oppose a debt-ceiling hike, which would deny the funding for those same bills.

"It's ironic that people who would vote for spending the money are not voting to pay for it," Hoyer said.

"Mr. Boehner knows that putting the debt limit at risk is a bad policy, period," Hoyer added. "Whether Mr. Boehner feels he can move forward assuring that the debt limit is extended without a lot of confidence-destroying political back-and-forth is another question."