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Hoyer backs clean debt-limit hike

Hoyer backs clean debt-limit hike
© Greg Nash

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) deflated on Wednesday nascent Democratic plans for using the debt ceiling fight to extract political concessions from the GOP.

“I think it’s not a responsible vote to vote against a debt limit that is clean,” Hoyer told reporters.

He said Democrats would support a debt-limit hike — “irrespective of other issues” — if Republicans bring it to the floor without controversial provisions.

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“I have talked to Republican leaders saying if, in fact, they brought a [up] clean bill … I would urge Democrats to vote for it,” Hoyer said during a press briefing in the Capitol.

Hoyer’s comments seem to depart from the position carved out last week by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who sent an early warning that Democrats would not rubber stamp a debt-ceiling hike if Republicans intended to push big tax cuts for the wealthy. 

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration Voters say Biden should make coronavirus vaccine a priority: poll New York City subway service could be slashed 40 percent, officials warn MORE (D-N.Y.) has made similar remarks in recent days, though Hoyer said Wednesday that he’s spoken with Pelosi and the two are on the same page. 

“The leader and I are in agreement,” he said.

“Passing tax cuts without paying for them … I’m opposed to that,” he added. “And I think that’s what she was saying. … Leader Pelosi and I both believe that if a clean debt limit extension were brought to the floor that we would be … telling our members that this was a responsible action for us to take, irrespective of other issues.”

The debate over the debt ceiling hike is heating up this month, after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned congressional leaders that action to raise the cap would be needed before the August recess, not later in the fall, as previously thought.

Mnuchin urged congressional leaders to pass a clean bill, but some Republicans have suggested they’ll use the must-pass debt-limit hike to extract concessions from Democrats. 

While the Republicans control both chambers, likely opposition to a debt-ceiling hike from fiscal conservatives makes it all but certain that Democratic votes will be needed to pass the measure through Congress. 

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyOn The Money: Biden, Democratic leaders push for lame-duck coronavirus deal | Business groups shudder at Sanders as Labor secretary | Congress could pass retirement bill as soon as this year Top Democrat: Congress could pass retirement bill as soon as this year Momentum grows for bipartisan retirement bill in divided Congress MORE (R-Texas), for one, said he sees the legislation to prevent a federal default as “an opportunity to change the way Washington spends and budgets.”  

“I’m one of these members of Congress who would like to see significant budget reforms that go along with debt ceiling, because, frankly, the budget rules we work under are all focused on how you spend more,” Brady told Fox News on Tuesday.

But Democratic leaders are warning in no uncertain terms that they’ll oppose any debt-ceiling hike with “poison pill” amendments attached to it. With Republicans controlling both Congress and the White House, they say, the burden is on GOP leaders to bring forth a proposal that can reach the president’s desk.

“They have the majority,” Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said Wednesday. 

“The responsibility is on their shoulders to keep the basics of government open and running.”

Failure to lift or suspend the debt ceiling would result in an American default, which could have catastrophic economic consequences.