Mnuchin pushes for ‘clean’ debt ceiling boost

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has begun lobbying congressional leaders for a "clean" debt ceiling increase, according to Capitol Hill sources.

But that debt increase — needed sometime this fall — will prove a tough vote for both parties, and neither GOP nor Democratic leaders have signed yet off on the Trump administration’s plan to raise the debt limit without attaching other policy sweeteners.

Mnuchin met Tuesday morning with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to discuss the issue, as well as other topics, per Senate aides.

Mnuchin is seeking a clean debt ceiling increase by Sept. 29, according to a letter he sent to congressional leaders last week. To get it through Congress by then will require both the House and Senate to begin work soon after they return from the August recess.

Democrats, however, are not sure that Mnuchin and the White House can line up a significant number of GOP votes for any such debt boost.

Conservative Republicans frequently tried to use the debt ceiling increase during the Obama era to push for other spending cuts, though they faced stiff opposition from Democrats and former President Barack Obama. The 2011 debt limit showdown led to a downgrade in the U.S. credit rating.

Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — who will likely have to deliver a big chunk of the votes for a debt limit boost — have been cautious on the issue as well.

Pelosi has indicated she will support a clean debt limit boost. But a number of House Democrats are uneasy on voting to increase the debt ceiling at the same time that Republicans will be trying to push through a tax cut package that could heavily favor wealthier Americans and increase the deficit.

The Democratic base is also unhappy with any accommodation their leaders make with President Donald Trump, which makes it even more problematic.

Ben White contributed to this report.

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