House Republican signals he’s ready for a debt ceiling fight, even if Trump isn’t

The dispute could leave the country in chaos.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
CREDIT: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

The federal government is once again nearing its self-imposed debt ceiling, and the Trump administration is calling on Congress to raise the ceiling with a simple, clean bill that has nothing attached to it. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) confirmed Tuesday morning, however, that House Republicans are ready to hold the nation’s economy hostage.

Asked whether the House will pass a clean debt ceiling increase, Cole responded, “Probably not clean.” As in previous years, he explained, Republicans want to use the must-pass bill to achieve some of their other spending priorities.

“A clean debt ceiling hike is like having a credit card and saying, ‘I’ve reached my limit,'” he falsely explained. “‘I just am going to change the limit higher without changing any of my spending habits.’ That’s a tough sell to Republicans.”

The Trump administration had until recently been divided over how to proceed. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has consistently called for a clean debt ceiling increase, but until this past week, Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, was still calling for attaching provisions that would “drive certain spending reforms and debt reforms in the future.” On Thursday, Mulvaney made an about-face, calling for “the simplest debt ceiling increase that we can get” — and thereby bringing the administration in alignment.

Some conservatives are now calling President Trump a flip-flopper, noting that in 2013, he chastised Republicans as “the worst negotiators in history” for being willing to suspend the debt ceiling.

The government is expected to hit the debt limit by around September 29. If the ceiling is not raised, the United States would default on its debt, which would prompt a government shutdown and massive economic crisis.