Schumer links debt hike to tax cuts

Schumer links debt hike to tax cuts
© Greg Nash

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerBarr to testify before House Judiciary panel Graham won't call Barr to testify over Roger Stone sentencing recommendation Roger Stone witness alleges Trump targeted prosecutors in 'vile smear job' MORE (D-N.Y.) warned Tuesday that Democrats might not back a clean debt ceiling hike if Republicans separately seek to cut tax rates for the rich.

“It's going to be a lot harder to get a debt ceiling raised if our Republican colleagues insist on raising the deficit dramatically by huge tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans,” Schumer said.

He added it will be the GOP's responsibility to raise the debt ceiling, not Democrats in the minority in the House and Senate.

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His comments follow a statement from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who on Friday said, “I don't have any intention of supporting lifting the debt ceiling to enable the Republicans to give another tax break to the wealthy in our country.”

Democrats have generally backed raising the debt ceiling, as long as the hike has not been attacked to other measures, such as spending cuts or laws that would limit regulation. A decision to oppose a clean debt-ceiling bill because of other legislative measures under consideration in Congress would be a significant turnabout for the party.

Schumer and other Democratic leaders in the past have often said it is the responsibility of lawmakers to back raising the debt ceiling.

In the 2013 debt standoff, Schumer said of a possible debt ceiling breach that “no one should risk it and no one should say I want my political agenda attached to it.”

As a result, it’s possible the strategy could be seen as risky by some Democrats.

Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownTrump pick for Fed seat takes bipartisan fire On The Money: Deficit spikes 25 percent through January | Mnuchin declines to say why Trump pulled Treasury nominee who oversaw Roger Stone case | Lawmakers trade insults over Trump budget cuts Mnuchin defends Treasury regulations on GOP tax law MORE (D-Ohio) said he wasn’t aware of any such plans being widely discussed among Democrats.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) sounded a squeamish note on holding the economy hostage.

“We need to make sure we don’t harm the economy. What happened last time around, of course, was that Senator [Ted] Cruz [R-Texas] and the Republicans threatened to use the debt ceiling in a way that ended up hurting the economy,” he said, a reference to the 2011 and 2013 debt ceiling debates. The former resulted in a U.S. debt downgrade from credit ratings agency S&P.

Van Hollen said internal Democratic discussions on how to approach the debt ceiling were continuing.

It’s possible the remarks from Schumer and Pelosi are more generally meant to signal to Republicans that they should not just expect Democrats to blindly back a clean debt ceiling hike. It’s also possible that Democrats are searching for public arguments to use to raise pressure on Republicans to come up with the votes to raise the debt limit.

Democrats have a clear desire for Republicans to carry the water on any politically dicey debt ceiling vote since the GOP holds congressional majorities and the White House. They believe it is the GOP’s responsibility to do so.

“The onus on debt limit is on our Republican colleagues. They control the presidency, they control the House, they control the Senate,” Schumer said.

Republicans have their own challenges on the issue, since conservatives are calling for spending cuts to be tied to the measure.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, however, has called for a clean debt-ceiling hike.

Mnuchin has asked Congress to raise the debt ceiling before the August recess.

— Jordain Carney contributed to this report.