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Dems vow to reject any debt limit hike with poison riders

Dems vow to reject any debt limit hike with poison riders
© Greg Nash

Democratic leaders are already warning Republicans ahead of a debt ceiling debate that they won’t support any package containing controversial riders.

“If they expect Democrats to support a debt ceiling increase, it needs to be a clean bill,” Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, told reporters Wednesday in the Capitol.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the Democratic whip, is sending the same warning.

“We’re not going to be shaken down for ransom,” Hoyer said Tuesday during his own press briefing.

“‘Clean’ does not mean that it has nothing else in it,” Hoyer clarified. “It means that everything in that bill is agreed upon and has consensus in the Congress … on both sides of the aisle.

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“On the other hand, 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.”

Once considered a bipartisan bit of legislative housekeeping, the vote to raise the debt ceiling took on new meaning after the Tea Party wave of 2010 ushered in a number of fiscal hawks to Capitol Hill. Since then, conservatives have fought to use the threat of a government default as leverage for moving items on their legislative wish list, including long-failed efforts to repeal ObamaCare and defund Planned Parenthood.

President Trump, long before entering the White House, weighed in on some of those fights, hammering Republicans for caving to President Obama without exacting more concessions. And former Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), now the director of the Office of Management and Budget, was among the cardinal orchestrators of a 2013 government shutdown over ObamaCare repeal.

Still, Republicans suffered the brunt of the political backlash surrounding the 2013 fight, and GOP leaders are already vowing to raise the debt ceiling later this year without any similar drama.

"We'll be talking to the secretary of the Treasury about timing, but obviously we will raise the debt ceiling,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGarland's AG nomination delayed by GOP roadblocks DOJ declined to take up Chao ethics probe Trump was unhinged and unchanged at CPAC MORE (R-Ky.) said Tuesday.

Yet GOP leaders have struggled in the past to pass a debt ceiling hike without Democratic support. And with some conservatives already eying ways to use that vote to ram through Republican priorities, the GOP may need the Democrats’ help again this year.

In November of 2015, Congress suspended the debt ceiling, a reprieve that expires on Thursday. The Treasury Department, however, can take steps — known as “extraordinary measures” — to extend its borrowing power for months to come. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated those measures could push the real debate to “sometime in the fall.”

Months ahead of that debate, the Democrats are already laying the ground rules.

“What we're just saying to them [is], ‘Don't have any expectations that if you put a wall in into the bill or you throw onerous immigration language in or any other type of rider — Planned Parenthood, whatever it may be — that somehow there's gonna be an epiphany and there will be a change of heart here,” Crowley warned. “That's not the case."

“They have the obligation as the majority to pass this debt ceiling increase,” he added, “and if they cannot do it with their votes and they want our support, they need to talk to us about that.”