GOP could use budget maneuver to raise debt ceiling over filibuster

GOP could use budget maneuver to raise debt ceiling over filibuster
© Greg Nash

President Trump’s budget director said Thursday that Republicans might work to raise the debt ceiling using a budget process that prevents Senate filibusters on controversial additions.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said the White House is “looking at options” to raise the legal limit of how much the debt the federal government can hold. The ceiling and will likely need to be raised by autumn to avoid a default.

“We are not Greece, and the comparisons to Greece are entirely unfounded,” Mulvaney said, referring to the Mediterranean nation's ongoing economic depression. "But I think there are some lessons to be learned about overextending yourself on debt.”

Democrats and Republicans have both vowed to raise the debt ceiling before a default, and Mulvaney said he would press for “more fiscal discipline” in any deal.

He said Republicans could try to use a legislative process called budget reconciliation to circumvent filibusters, meaning cost-cutting measures opposed by Democrats would need only simple majority approval from the Republicans in each chamber.

“We don’t really know what we’re trying to build. Are we building a bill that needs 50 votes to pass or 60 votes to pass?” Mulvaney said during a Thursday interview with International Institute of Finance.  “How we go about handling the debt ceiling depends on how we handle some other things.”

Republicans sought to use reconciliation to repeal and replace ObamaCare, and they could try that process to pass tax reform legislation despite Democratic opposition. But when GOP lawmakers failed to gather enough intraparty support for their healthcare plan, questions about whether Republicans would need to work with Democrats on major priorities swirled.

Mulvaney said Republicans have been willing to negotiate with Democrats on their priorities, calling the upcoming April 28 deadline to fund the government “the first real test” to see if Democrats are “open to compromise.”

Trump has threatened to cancel federal payments to insurers that cover low-income Americans through the ObamaCare exchanges, attempting to force Democrats to negotiate on healthcare. Without the payments, many insurers could pull out of ObamaCare exchanges or spike premiums, causing chaos in the healthcare system.