Pelosi clarifies: Dems will back 'clean' debt ceiling hike

Pelosi clarifies: Dems will back 'clean' debt ceiling hike
© Greg Nash

House Democrats will support a “clean” debt-ceiling hike, without stipulating other demands, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Friday.

“Clean. Clean,” she told reporters in the Capitol. “As I said before, this is about debt incurred.” 

Last week, Pelosi raised eyebrows when both she and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump blasts Pelosi for wanting to leave country during shutdown The Senate should host the State of the Union Dem senators debate whether to retweet Cardi B video criticizing Trump over shutdown MORE (D-N.Y.) appeared to threaten to withhold their support for a debt ceiling increase if Republicans pushed forward with proposals to slash taxes on the wealthy — cuts that would almost certainly lower federal revenues and spike deficit spending. 

“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,” Pelosi said last Friday.  

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“Tax breaks to the wealthy increase the deficit, and now we have to lower the deficit.”

On Friday, Pelosi clarified the earlier remarks, saying she “wasn’t clear” a week ago. 

“My point was there should be no signal from [passing] a clean debt ceiling that … this is license to increase the debt,” she said. “It's about the past; it’s not about the future. So, plain and simply, [we are] for a clean debt ceiling.” 

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is urging Congress to pass a debt ceiling increase before the long August recess — months earlier than initially expected — and Pelosi on Friday endorsed the expedited timeline, “because this may come due in August.”

“Even if it's September, we want to be ready and … remove all doubt, have some certainty as to where that is,” she said. “So I would hope that we could work in a bipartisan way.”

Complicating the debate, however, the White House has sent mixed signals about its favored approach. While Mnuchin wants a clean bill, Mick Mulvaney, President Trump’s budget director, has urged GOP leaders to attach spending cuts and budget caps to the must-pass legislation. 

Mulvaney’s strategy is supported by conservatives on Capitol Hill, but it’s a nonstarter with the Democrats whose votes will almost certainly be needed to pass the legislation and prevent a federal default.  

“We're not going down that path,” Pelosi warned Friday. “And if they were to go down that path as a way to lift the debt ceiling in the House, I doubt they could pass that in the Senate." 

“So let's just be efficient. Let's remove all doubt. Let's save our debate for another subject,” she added. “This is the full faith in credit of the United States of America.”

Trump, huddling with GOP leaders at the White House this week, reportedly told the Republicans that he’s on board with Mnuchin’s clean approach.