‘We will act on a clean debt ceiling,’ Harry Reid says. | M.Scott Mahaskey/POLITICO
Senate Democrats hope to raise the debt ceiling and reopen the government in one fell swoop, leaders indicated on Thursday.
Democratic demands are the same as they’ve always been: They want the GOP to agree to a debt ceiling increase and a continuing resolution to open the government that doesn’t include policy riders, particularly related to Obamacare. But now that the government is closed and the debt limit just two weeks away, leadership on Thursday sought to more explicitly connect the two critical items.
What does this mean for Americans? The government may be closed for weeks.
“I think there’s going to be a stalemate for two or three weeks,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) told POLITICO. “Why would the parties negotiate one deal to have another impasse? It’s all been psychologically been rolled together.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his chief message man, New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer , did not say when the Senate will seek to move a debt ceiling increase or whether it will move that legislation separate from a spending bill or in a package. But in their minds, the two issues have become inextricably linked, given the October calendar.
“We said we’ll negotiate on anything they want to talk about,” Reid said of Republicans. But “the government has to be open and the debt ceiling has to get out of the way.”
Republicans have for weeks indicated they’d like to use the debt ceiling as leverage for changes to entitlement programs and other fiscal priorities, but Reid said that President Barack Obama laid out squarely in a Wednesday meeting to House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Mitch McConnell that history is on his side regarding not making concessions to avoid a default.
“Right now, the debt ceiling is facing us very quickly. We’re talking about the CR now. It’s hard to separate the two because they’re right both on top of us,” Reid said. “We will act on a clean debt ceiling. The president’s said he’s not going to negotiate on the debt ceiling. He’s not going to negotiate, we aren’t either. It’s never happened in the history of the country.”
On Wednesday, Reid sought to open bicameral fiscal negotiations with Boehner on the condition that the government reopen. Now it’s clear that Democrats intend to take a similarly firm stand on the debt ceiling.
“We’d like to move them both together. Moving them together is a good thing. The debt ceiling [is] 20 times as dangerous, as bad, as shutting the government down. So we’d like to move them together,” Schumer said. “Maybe once the tea party has realized it’s not getting its way on shutting down the government, that they won’t try to do the same stunt on [the] debt ceiling. If they do, by the way, the heat on them will be much, much greater than it is now. They know that.”