The nation’s borrowing authority will very likely not have to be raised again by Congress until “well into 2018,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday, as he sought to take some credit for a sweeping legislative agreement Democratic lawmakers have been touting.
In an interview with “The New Washington,” a podcast by the New York Times, McConnell said the deal was “not quite as good as my counterpart thought it was.”
“Since I was in charge of drafting the debt ceiling provision that we inserted into the flood bill, we likely — almost certainly — are not going to have another debt ceiling discussion until well into 2018,” said McConnell, according to the Times report on the interview.
McConnell explained that he pushed for retaining the Treasury Department’s ability to use “extraordinary measures” to avoid a more immediate need to raise the debt ceiling.
President Trump signed a bill last Friday to provide $15 billion in disaster aid and extend government funding and the federal borrowing limit until Dec. 8, giving Democrats much of what they asked for in the talks.
While the Democrats pushed for a three-month deal that would renew their bargaining power before the end of the year, Republican leaders sought a longer-term arrangement. But Trump, in a meeting with congressional leaders, sided with the Democrats over his own party’s congressional leaders, surprising many close observers.
The implications of the flexibility for the Treasury Department remain unclear. The new law gives Treasury the ability to suspend certain payments for months if necessary to avoid default.
It’s unclear how much flexibility they would have, but it is likely the debt ceiling would need to be addressed no later than the summer of 2018, based on past projections.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s office did not immediately comment. A senior Senate Democratic aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly responded by arguing that Republicans were giving Democrats two chances to gain leverage in key legislative debates on the horizon.
Trump and Schumer (D-N.Y.) also agreed last week to pursue a deal that would permanently eliminate the requirement that Congress repeatedly raise the debt ceiling.
Damian Paletta contributed to this report.