Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Friday that he is “100% confident” the debt ceiling will be raised in September, though whether he will get his preference of a clean bill remains to be determined.
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“I believe there is no scenario where the government won’t be paying its bills,” Mnuchin said during a White House press briefing.
Mnuchin has long expressed his proclivity for a clean debt ceiling increase, passed without spending riders attached – the latter is a strategy favored by conservative Republicans, including Office of Management Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. On Friday, Mnuchin explained that President Donald Trump had floated the idea of combining the bill with Veterans Affairs legislation and indicated that even if he doesn't get his wish for a clean bill, the government will increase its borrowing authority one way or another.
“What the president said was that his strong preference had been that when they passed the VA bill before they left, that they attached the debt ceiling to that so that we wouldn’t be dealing with this in September,” he said. “And what I have said before, my strong preference is that we have a clean debt ceiling, but the most important issue the debt ceiling will be raised in September.”
On Thursday, in a tweet explaining his preference that lawmakers tie the debt ceiling to the VA bill for passage prior to August recess, Trump said debt ceiling approval “could have been so easy-now a mess!”
However, Mnuchin went on to say that the White House and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are on the same page about getting that goal accomplished.
In an interview with The Financial Times released on Friday, National Economic Director Gary Cohn also addressed the imminent debt ceiling deadline, saying next month the burden will be on Congress to approve a bill.
“Secretary Mnuchin and I totally agree that we cannot be put in a position where we default — we cannot default. We have to pay our obligations. The debt ceiling stuff will be in September, so before [tax legislation].”
Lawmakers have a tall to-do list come September. While the president hits the road to promote the GOP’s tax reform agenda starting next week, Congress will be saddled with a slew of must-pass items before the onset of the new fiscal year in October.
“There’s a lot to do in September,” Mnuchin said. “We have the debt ceiling, we have the continuing resolution to fund the government, we have a budget. Congress has a lot of work this month.”
Still, White House officials seem to agree that the debt ceiling is number one on the priorities list. A deal will raise the United States’ borrowing authority in order to cover the annual deficit it accrues. It will also allow the government to continue routine payments, including Social Security benefits.