House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, eager to avoid a high-stakes fiscal fight with the White House and potentially devastating consequences for the economy, said on Thursday that she would seek a massive bipartisan deal to lift the debt ceiling and stave off billions of automatic spending cuts before Congress leaves for August recess.
Pelosi and other congressional and White House officials are looking to strike a multi-year budget and debt ceiling deal in an attempt to avoid roiling financial markets with yet another round of dramatic, down-to-the-wire negotiations in early September, just days after lawmakers are slated to return from their summer break.
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“I am personally convinced that we should act on the caps and the debt ceiling,” Pelosi told reporters Thursday evening, adding that it should be “prior to recess.”
The California Democrat spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin just before 5 p.m. and had plans to speak again later Thursday evening, according to a senior Democratic aide.
A quick deal would be a surprise after months of on-again, off-again talks between congressional leaders and the White House — including high-profile meetings with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, one of which President Donald Trump stormed out of.
The effort to reach an agreement comes after Mnuchin issued a stern warning to congressional leaders that the drop-dead date to raise the nation’s borrowing limit and avoid a default was now in mid-September. That deadline was pushed up by several weeks amid lower-than-expected tax revenue this year.
And without action on Congress’s budget caps, hundreds of billions of dollars would be slashed from both domestic and defense programs.
Some Democrats have privately feared that the high-wire act of waiting until September — with just days to draft and pass legislation — would have benefited White House officials, like acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
Republicans, too, are eager to avoid a high-stakes fiscal battle in September, with a trade battle already putting Wall Street on high alert.
The basics of a budget deal between the two parties have long been established on Capitol Hill, which has lived with a hard cap on spending for a decade.
But it would require political capital from leaders of both parties: Progressives, for example, would need to accept sharp increases in Pentagon funding without any other policy concessions from Trump.
And Republicans would need to stomach drastic increases in domestic spending with no attempt to pay for it.