Senate Republicans are planning for a July vote to raise the debt ceiling, according to senators and aides.
Though the Treasury Department has said that Congress can likely wait until September to avoid default, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his lieutenants are increasingly disposed to clearing the Senate’s plate as much as possible before heading home for August recess. That would also likely mean decoupling the debt ceiling from a potential government shutdown fight in September.
It’s not clear what exactly such a bill would look like, but members of both parties are interested in a broad spending deal that would avoid the blunt budget cuts of sequestration. A clean debt ceiling increase may be a problem for a GOP majority filled with fiscal conservatives.
“I’d like to see that done earlier,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas when asked about lifting the debt ceiling in September. “I’m hoping there will be a negotiation on spending caps. Maybe it will be part of that.”
Republican Senate staffers were provided new schedule guidance on Monday laying out that the preferred debt deadline is before the August break.
In the House, GOP leaders have not yet settled on a plan to raise the debt ceiling, according to multiple sources. The topic, which is toxic for many in the more right-leaning chamber, is expected to be discussed on Wednesday morning during a GOP conference meeting to discuss the budget and appropriations process.
Conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus have called for spending cuts to accompany any increase in the nation’s borrowing limit, and more than a few GOP leadership allies have bristled at the idea of doing a “clean” debt ceiling increase with no policy strings or cuts attached — as Democrats have demanded in previous years.
But GOP leaders in the House are eyeing what’s feasible in the chamber across Capitol Hill. And since Senate Democrats will never go for spending cuts, the idea will likely remain a far-off hardliner dream.
There may be some rank and file support among House Republicans to piece together a bipartisan budget deal to raise spending caps, as is being discussed in the Senate. More than 141 defense-minded House Republicans signed a letter in early May asking GOP leaders to raise the cap on the Pentagon budget.
Senate Democrats would be loath to support a military boost without increases for domestic programs as well. Some GOP defense hawks may be willing to negotiate to do both. It’s unclear, however, if they would want to link that to a debt ceiling vote.