FEATURED:

GOP leaders have few sure votes on debt ceiling

GOP leaders have few sure votes on debt ceiling
© Getty

Only 16 House Republicans who are currently in office backed the last “clean” debt hike, and few of them will say they are certain to support it this year.

If the debt ceiling is raised with a clean hike — a distinct possibility given Democratic demands and the narrow, 52-seat majority for the GOP in the Senate — Republicans will need at least 24 members of their own conference to back a clean debt bill in the House.

That could be a tall order. Only four of the 16 Republicans who voted for the clean debt hike in 2014 suggest they will or are open to doing so this fall.

“We’ve not made any public statements,” said a spokesperson for Rep. Peter Roskam Peter James RoskamDems target small cluster of states in battle for House Kavanaugh becomes new flashpoint in midterms defined by anger Election Countdown: Big fundraising numbers in fight for Senate | Haley resigns in surprise move | Says she will back Trump in 2020 | Sanders hitting midterm trail | Collins becomes top Dem target | Takeaways from Indiana Senate debate MORE (R-Ill.).

ADVERTISEMENT

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThe Memo: Saudi storm darkens for Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report — Mnuchin won't attend Saudi conference | Pompeo advises giving Saudis 'few more days' to investigate | Trump threatens military action over caravan The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Health care a top policy message in fall campaigns MORE (R-Wis.), who would be charged with convincing Republicans to back the bill, voted against the clean debt hike in 2014, when he was still chairman of the House Budget Committee. Only 28 Republicans backed it, and 12 of them are no longer in Congress.

In the Senate, every Republican opposed the clean debt-ceiling bill on final passage.

It’s also far from clear that every Democrat in the House will back a clean debt hike.

This will be the first time in more than a decade that Republicans will have to raise the debt ceiling while controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress.

That political dynamic puts all of the responsibility for raising the debt ceiling on the GOP, and little if any on Democrats. House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiPelosi meets with Parkland students and parents, says gun control would be atop Dems’ agenda The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Health care a top policy message in fall campaigns Election Countdown: O'Rourke goes on the attack | Takeaways from fiery second Texas Senate debate | Heitkamp apologizes for ad misidentifying abuse victims | Trump Jr. to rally for Manchin challenger | Rick Scott leaves trail to deal with hurricane damage MORE (D-Calif.) will not want to give slack to vulnerable Republicans who don’t want to back the debt ceiling hike for their own party’s president. 

“I don’t see Democrats bailing out Republicans, just like Republicans didn’t bail out Democrats,” said Steve Bell, senior advisor for the Bipartisan Policy Center and a former staff director of the Senate Budget Committee. “They’ll say, ‘We’re going to give you the same amount of help you gave us.’”

In the spring, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) suggested that Democrats could withhold support from a clean debt hike if Republicans separately press for legislation cutting taxes on the wealthy.

They later said that Democrats would back a clean debt hike, but Pelosi will want as many Republicans as possible to support it since their party controls the White House. And the tax talk has given an argument to any liberal who chooses to oppose a debt ceiling hike.

Only four of the 16 House Republicans who backed the clean debt ceiling in 2014 suggested they would consider voting for a clean debt hike this year: Reps. Charlie DentCharles (Charlie) Wieder DentMidterms put GOP centrists in peril House GOP group cuts financial support for Coffman, Bishop GOP House candidate placed on leave from longtime position after sexual misconduct allegation MORE (Pa.), Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaMidterms in 2018 become most expensive in history Dems target small cluster of states in battle for House Painting of Trump with past GOP presidents hung up in White House MORE (Calif.), Pete KingPeter (Pete) Thomas KingKey GOP lawmaker says public oblivious to consequences of opioid crisis Cook Political Report moves 5 GOP-held seats towards Dems The Hill's Morning Report — Kavanaugh could be confirmed within days MORE (N.Y.) and David Valadao (Calif.). 

Dent, a longtime centrist GOP leader, acknowledged more Republicans will probably have to take that step.

“Guess what? We’ll need at least 24 Republicans, and it should be a much larger number than that,” he said.

Since the last time Republicans enjoyed full power in Washington, raising the debt ceiling has become much more politically contentious. The GOP base railed against spending during the Obama administration, and fights over raising the debt ceiling in 2011 led Standard & Poor's to lower the U.S. credit rating.

Conservative Republicans are already pressing Ryan to tie spending cuts or budgetary reforms to a debt-limit bill, signaling they do not plan on changing their strategy with fellow Republican Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Guardian slams Trump over comments about assault on reporter Five takeaways from the first North Dakota Senate debate Watchdog org: Tillerson used million in taxpayer funds to fly throughout US MORE in the White House.

Democrats, however, say they will insist on a clean debt hike.

This means that if the House could pass a debt ceiling bill that included provisions backed by conservatives, their brethren in the Senate would need at least eight Democrats to back it in the upper chamber to overcome an expected filibuster.

The Trump administration has given mixed signals about the debt ceiling.

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOvernight Defense: Trump shifts tone on Saudis | New pressure from lawmakers | Trump: 'Certainly looks' like Khashoggi dead | Pompeo gives Saudis days to wrap up investigation | Trump threatens military action on border to stop migrants On The Money: Mnuchin pulls out of Saudi summit | Consumer bureau to probe controversial blog posts on race | Harris proposes new middle-class tax credit Trump changes tone on Saudi Arabia amid mounting pressure MORE has called for a clean debt hike and initially said it should be done before the August recess. He has since said a vote could take place in September.

Trump budget director Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyOn The Money: Mnuchin pulls out of Saudi summit | Consumer bureau to probe controversial blog posts on race | Harris proposes new middle-class tax credit Consumer bureau to probe top Trump official's past racial comments On The Money: Deficit hits six-year high of 9 billion | Yellen says Trump attacks threaten Fed | Affordable housing set for spotlight in 2020 race MORE, a former House Republican who demanded steep budgetary restrictions be tied to the debt limit hike, has said there should not be a clean debt hike vote.

Some Republicans who backed a clean debt hike in 2014 are expressing confidence the votes will be there in 2017.

“If you write the purchase order, the goods are delivered, you’ve agreed to pay for it, and suddenly you’re saying ‘well I hit my limit,’ well no, your limit was determined by your decision to write the purchase order and accept the goods,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (Calf.). 

He’s one of five members, along with Roskam and Reps. David Valadao (Calif.), Pat MeehanPatrick (Pat) Leo MeehanUS athletics watchdog closes probe into GOP House hopeful Dems eyeing smaller magic number for House majority Overnight Energy: Pruitt taps man behind 'lock her up' chant for EPA office | Watchdog to review EPA email policies | Three Republicans join climate caucus MORE (Pa.) and Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceGOP leaders hesitant to challenge Trump on Saudi Arabia Election Countdown: O'Rourke goes on the attack | Takeaways from fiery second Texas Senate debate | Heitkamp apologizes for ad misidentifying abuse victims | Trump Jr. to rally for Manchin challenger | Rick Scott leaves trail to deal with hurricane damage Saudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP MORE (Calif.), who backed the last clean debt hike and represent districts won by Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWatchdog org: Tillerson used million in taxpayer funds to fly throughout US Republicans cancel airtime in swing Vegas district The Democratic Donald Trump is coming MORE in the 2016 presidential election.

“This will happen,” said Dent of passing the debt lift. “The question is how much drama will be endure between now and the time that happens.” 

--This report was updated at 11:44 a.m.