President Donald Trump signaled Thursday that he could support terminating the debt limit, a radical departure from Republican orthodoxy, and what’s more could work with his fellow New Yorker, Senate Democratic Leader Charles E. Schumer, to make it happen.
“For many years people have been talking about getting rid of the debt ceiling altogether and there are a lot of good reasons to do that,” Trump said Thursday. “So certainly that is something that could be discussed. We even discussed it at the meeting we had yesterday.”
The prospect of finding a way out of the recurring votes on increasing federal borrowing authority — an anomaly in the industrialized world — or temporarily suspending the limit has certainly been talked about before, and Schumer got a favorable response to the idea during Wednesday’s White House meeting with Trump and other congressional leaders, according to a person familiar with the discussion.
Specifically, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence seemed willing to engage on the question ahead of the next government funding battle, which will come at the beginning of December after Wednesday’s agreement between Trump and the Democrats on stopgap funding and a short-term debt limit suspension.
Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., may not be on board with such an effort.
“I won’t get into our private conversation that we had, but I think there’s a legitimate role in the power of the purse and Article One powers and that’s something that we defend here in Congress,” Ryan said when asked at his Thursday press conference about reports Trump was open to getting rid of the need for Congress to raise the debt limit.
One option may be to revive legislation Schumer first introduced back in 2013. The bill would have made permanent a procedure that gave authority to the president to request a debt ceiling hike when the Treasury approached the limit, along with an expedited process for Congress to vote on a joint resolution of disapproval.
Because disapproval resolutions can be vetoed, the temporary version of the process was initially designed by current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to make President Barack Obama ultimately responsible for borrowing.
McConnell rejected Schumer’s proposal at the time, noting there had been debt limit increases paired with significant changes on the spending side.
“The so-called ‘Schumer-Obama Plan’ is a plan to permanently hand the president a credit card without spending limits, and without lifting a finger to address the national debt,” McConnell said back then. “I reject that idea entirely.”
A person familiar with the meeting said there is no agreement about moving forward, but it may signal another pivot toward working with members of both parties amid tensions with his fellow Republicans.
“The people of the U.S. want to see a coming together,” Trump said Thursday.
John T. Bennett and Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.