Trump: Don’t blame me if we hit the debt ceiling, blame McConnell and Ryan
Fact check: True or false?
Answer: Half-true! According to a Wall Street Journal story from mid-July, the White House was indeed looking to stitch a debt-ceiling hike onto the popular, must-pass VA reform bill as a way of avoiding a debt-ceiling showdown later:
The upcoming debt-limit vote will be the first once since March 2006 with Republicans in control of the House, Senate and White House. Raising the limit will bring little joy for Republicans, many of whom want to tie spending cuts or other fiscal restraints to the debt limit.
As a result, the debt limit is likely to be attached to other must-pass legislation or to something like the veterans bill that is politically popular. The White House is supportive of the strategy, one of the people familiar with the discussions said.
“You know how this place works: You always stick something people love onto something people hate,” said Phil Roe, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, at the time. That’s exactly Trump’s point in his tweets. So why is his claim only half-true? Because: Obviously two establishmentarians like “Mitch M” and “Paul R” are eager to avoid brinksmanship over the debt ceiling. They played that game of chicken with Obama, ended up blinking, and have no desire to replay it now with Democrats. They’re the last guys in Congress who want to risk a technical default.
So who’s to blame if they’re not? Another article from mid-July, this time from Politico:
The reality is that striking a debt agreement will likely take much longer than two weeks. Republicans will need Democrats to carry the legislation because conservatives won’t vote for a debt ceiling increase without steep spending cuts — a proposition at which Democrats scoff.
Senate Democrats have also suggested they may play hard to get, demanding policy changes for their support. That all but ensures a multiweek negotiation process.
Would the House Freedom Caucus have gone along with a clean debt-ceiling hike simply because it was attached to the VA bill or would they have demanded spending cuts too? What would the Cruzes, Pauls, and Lees in the Senate have done? Ryan and McConnell are to some extent prisoners of their respective right wings. Also, would Democrats have gone along with a clean debt-ceiling hike in the Senate or would they have organized a filibuster in the name of, say, protecting ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion? The VA bill is a hard bill for a party to oppose but if their demands include things that are sacred to the party’s base, they can sell a little temporary obstructionism as leverage.
Besides, didn’t Trump himself bless the idea of brinksmanship a few nights ago in Phoenix when he threatened a government shutdown if the border wall isn’t funded? The debt ceiling is much more serious business than a shutdown, admittedly, but if he wants a clean debt-ceiling hike why would he invite Democrats to start making demands by making demands of his own on government funding?
Ah well. I’m sure McConnell will be a loyal soldier for him in shepherding through a compromise that averts fiscal calamity.
Update: D’oh. I had a brain fart in the original headline. Trump was referring to the debt ceiling, not to a shutdown, in his tweets. Sorry for the error.