Trump, Democrats Weigh Eliminating Need for Debt-Limit Votes--Update

By Kristina Peterson Features Dow Jones Newswires

President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders discussed the idea of eliminating the need to hold votes on raising the country's borrowing limit in Wednesday's Oval Office gathering, people familiar with the meeting said Thursday.

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) raised the concept of skipping votes on the debt limit in the future and Mr. Trump was amenable to the idea, a person briefed on the meeting said.

Both Democratic leaders made clear it was not something that could happen immediately -- they would have to discuss the idea with their colleagues -- but that it was a possibility in December. If the deal struck Wednesday is approved by Congress, the debt limit would be suspended until Dec. 15.

Mr. Trump agreed with Democratic leaders to roll together a package combining $15.25 billion in aid for Hurricane Harvey victims with an extension of government funding and a suspension of the debt limit until Dec. 15.

The process under which Congress would skip debt-limit votes is known as the "Gephardt rule," after former Rep. Richard Gephardt (D., Mo.) and would automatically raise the government's borrowing limit after Congress passed a budget resolution.

The Gephardt rule has been used in the House, where it allowed the chamber to avoid taking a separate, direct vote on changes to the debt limit on 10 of 47 such measures enacted into law between 1980 and 2010, according to the Congressional Research Service. The Senate has never employed this approach and it was repealed in the House in 2011.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) rejected the idea of abolishing debt-limit votes on Thursday.

"There's a legitimate role for the power of the purse," he said.

Write to Kristina Peterson at kristina.peterson@wsj.com

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders discussed the idea of eliminating the need to hold votes on raising the country's borrowing limit in Wednesday's Oval Office gathering, people familiar with the meeting said Thursday.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) raised the concept of skipping votes on the debt limit in the future and Mr. Trump was amenable to the idea, a person briefed on the meeting said.

Both Democratic leaders made clear it wasn't something that could happen immediately -- they would have to discuss the idea with their colleagues -- but that it was a possibility in December. If the deal struck Wednesday is approved by Congress, the debt limit would be suspended until Dec. 15.

Mr. Trump agreed with Democratic leaders to roll together a package combining $15.25 billion in aid for Hurricane Harvey victims with an extension of government funding and a suspension of the debt limit until Dec. 15.

The process under which Congress would skip debt-limit votes is known as the "Gephardt rule," after former Rep. Richard Gephardt (D., Mo.) and would automatically raise the government's borrowing limit after Congress passed a budget resolution.

The Gephardt rule has been used in the House, where it allowed the chamber to avoid taking a separate, direct vote on changes to the debt limit on 10 of 47 such measures enacted into law between 1980 and 2010, according to the Congressional Research Service. The Senate has never employed this approach and it was repealed in the House in 2011.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) rejected the idea of abolishing debt-limit votes on Thursday.

"There's a legitimate role for the power of the purse," he said.

Mr. Trump also said that the subject had come up at the meeting, in remarks to reporters ahead of a lunch with the emir of Kuwait, who is visiting the White House Thursday.

"For many years we've been talking about getting rid of the debt ceiling altogether, and there are a lot of good reasons to do that," he said in response to a question. "We even discussed it in the meeting we had yesterday."

Mr. Trump told reporters he had been interested in pursuing a longer deal on the debt limit and a spending bill than the three-month agreement announced Wednesday, but had held back over concerns about limiting his ability to increase military sending.

"We would have done a one-year deal; we could have done a one-year deal, but we couldn't do it for one reason: It's called the military," he said.

The president repeated comments he had made on Wednesday, that he would never breach the debt ceiling because, he said, it was sacred to Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.

"As long as it's there it will never be violated," he said Thursday.

Write to Kristina Peterson at kristina.peterson@wsj.com and Louise Radnofsky at louise.radnofsky@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 07, 2017 14:04 ET (18:04 GMT)