Hours after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that raising the debt ceiling was “not urgent” and could be put off until May, his spokesman clarified that the Nevada Democrat supports addressing the debt limit as soon as possible.
The federal government is expected to bump up against its borrowing limits next month and will have to turn to special measures to keep from breaching the ceiling. Asked about the situation on Thursday, Mr. Reid told reporters Congress had months to deal with it.
“Well, that is not urgent. We keep getting different numbers on that, but we think sometime in May it will be necessary,” he said. “Maybe that’s wrong, but that’s what I heard. So maybe it’s April. I don’t know. But we’ll deal with it.”
But that stands in contrast with the message out of the Obama administration, where Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has pushed for Congress to act in February. Soon after Mr. Reid’s comments, his spokesman issued a statement clarifying the situation.
“Senator Reid agrees with Secretary Lew that Congress needs to extend the nation’s borrowing authority well in advance of when extraordinary measures are exhausted, as estimated by the Treasury Department. Secretary Lew has recommended that Congress deal with this issue in February and Senator Reid takes Secretary Lew’s recommendations extremely seriously,” Adam Jentleson, the spokesman, said.
Mr. Reid also emphasized that Democrats would only consider passing a clean debt ceiling increase, without any unrelated items attached to it.
“The one thing the president did make very clear yesterday — and he was extremely emphatic, as he was at the last go-around of this — he we will not negotiate on extending the debt limit, period,” Mr. Reid said.