GOP Group Ponders Debt Limit/Omnibus Combo

Republican Study Committee aims for votes before August recess

Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., chairman of the Republican Study Committee, says his group would like to combine a debt ceiling increase with an omnibus appropriations bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., chairman of the Republican Study Committee, says his group would like to combine a debt ceiling increase with an omnibus appropriations bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Posted June 7, 2017 at 4:00pm

With Congress needing to both prevent a government shutdown and a debt default in a matter of a few short months, the Republican Study Committee on Wednesday discussed the idea of combining a debt limit increase and an omnibus appropriations bill into one fiscal package to be voted on before Aug. 1.

“That’s what we’re shooting for,” RSC Chairman Mark Walker told Roll Call.

Walker later clarified to Roll Call that he misspoke when referring to the matters being combined into one vote. Rather, the RSC’s discussion focused on merging negotiations on the budget resolution, a spending bill and a debt ceiling increase. The three fiscal matters could be resolved in a larger fiscal negotiation and then voted on around the same time “but three different votes,” Walker clarified.

While the RSC has begun discussing this idea, they have not yet taken any official position. “We would like potentially before we get too far down the tracks, maybe in the next week or two, maybe to have some kind of official position on this,” Walker said.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has urged Congress to address the debt limit by August because of the possibility that the debt ceiling could be reached while Congress is out of session for its annual month-long recess. He also called for a “clean” debt ceiling increase, which would be one free of other policy attachments, but Republicans are unlikely to embrace such a move.

When the House and Senate return in September, they’ll need to pass legislation to fund the government into fiscal 2018. The current fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

Some House Republicans have expressed interest in skipping the movement of individual appropriations bills given that they’re already behind schedule on the typical budget process and instead having the House move an omnibus appropriations measure combining the 12 individual bills before the August break.

On Wednesday the RSC, a 151-member conservative caucus, discussed combining negotiations on a budget resolution and an omnibus with a debt ceiling increase so that Congress addresses its fiscal deadlines before August.

“You package it somehow where it could be like one vote where it has the debt ceiling, the budget and if you want to use the word omnibus or something,” Walker said. “But the date on that as crucial as far as what the content of it [is] … We want to be able to have all this done before August 1. We feel like that’s important [for] some promises that we’ve made to the American people.”

That reference to “one vote” that Walker later clarified was meant to refer to one negotiation that would lead to a single resolution to the various fiscal deadlines before the House. But there would still be “three separate votes” on the budget, spending bill and debt limit, Walker added.

“That’s where I mispoke,” he said.