Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned Congress may have to act on raising the debt ceiling sooner than anticipated to allow for additional spending on Hurricane Harvey relief efforts during an appearance on CNBC Thursday.
Lawmakers were already facing a tight deadline to increase the federal borrowing limit, facing the risk of defaulting on the country’s debt if they don’t pass legislation by Sept. 30. But with The Department of Treasury having just $67.8 billion in its cash reserve on hand as of Monday and the next wave of tax receipts not expected to arrive until Sept. 15, members could be pressed to pass a bill to ensure Texas and Louisiana receive the relief aid needed to begin the recovery process from the devastation caused by the storm.
“In terms of when it’s going to hit the debt ceiling, there could be some impact of a couple of days, but that would be the most,” Mnuchin said. “We’re going to have to go to Congress and get authorization to spend more, because it’s absolutely critical that we spend money to help the state.”
Republicans were gearing up for what was expected to be a contentious battle over whether spending cuts should be attached to the legislation — with conservatives arguing they have a responsibility to try to offset spending while top members of the administration have been adamant in their call for a clean bill.
GOP aides said in the wake of the storm, lawmakers are considering tacking Harvey aid onto the debt ceiling bill — a suggestion strongly opposed by top conservatives including House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows. Meadows told The Washington Post he believes it combining the two is inappropriate and sends the wrong message as a relief package would pass on its own.
There is strong support for attaching relief funding to a continuing resolution, according to the North Carolina Republican.
“I know that there was talk about combining the debt ceiling and the hurricane relief next week, but I have not heard any definitive plans at this point. I know there’s, you know, we’ve got a number of other issues — I’m not sure if we really know how much we need to do for hurricane relief at this point or not,” he told The Daily Caller News Foundation Thursday. “I think there’s more of an appetite to do the hurricane relief along with a short-term spending bill than there is doing hurricane relief with a debt ceiling increase.”
Meadows has long advocated for spending cuts in an attempt to get the deficit under control, but isn’t confident GOP leadership will get on board.
“I’ve had a couple of conversations with leadership and have no real clear understanding of how they plan to address the debt ceiling other than a clean debt ceiling increase,” he told TheDCNF. “And there doesn’t seem like there’s much of an appetite to put a conservative rider on the debt ceiling legislation.
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