Trump Accedes to Three-Month Increase to Debt Limit

by Theodore Kupfer

Per reports, President Trump just agreed to a three-month raise of the debt ceiling in a meeting with congressional leaders. That puts him in alignment with Democrats Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. Jake Sherman of Politico adds that Republicans “are furious” and that “the Democratic ploy — to keep debt limit short term — worked.” While it’s obviously uncertain how the next few months will play out, Trump appears to have handed Democrats a political victory.

On Sunday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin signaled that the administration had a strong desire to pass the debt-limit increase. The political tack Mnuchin proposed was to attach the debt measure to relief funding for Hurricane Harvey. But the duration of the debt-limit increase matters as much as the route by which it’s passed, and Mnuchin — and Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell — supported longer-term increases of 18, then six, months. The opposition party can use the possibility of a technical default, which would have severe consequences, as leverage to score political points, or defeat bills they don’t want. Republicans learned this during the Obama presidency when debt-ceiling fights strengthened their negotiating position.

Now Democrats will learn the same happy lesson. After Trump ended DACA yesterday, it is Congress’s responsibility to find a legislative fix. Democrats and libertarian-minded Republicans want that to consist of the DREAM Act alone, while Republicans with a more restrictionist bent want the DREAM Act to be passed alongside border-wall funding or stronger enforcement measures. That fight looms. So, too, does the fight over tax reform. These might not come until December — Congress’s legislative calendar is packed this month — at which point the country will be facing an impending default on its debt if the three-month increase in fact happens. Of course Democrats will use that as leverage. (What’s the name of that book again?)

It remains to be seen what the response of Republicans in Congress will be, but it’s noteworthy that the president has broken with them on this issue.

Update 2:51 Here is Ben Sasse’s response.

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