- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 24, 2017

President Trump wants Congress to send him a “clean” bill to raise the government’s debt ceiling, the White House said Thursday, adopting the longtime position of the Democratic Party and bucking conservatives who traditionally demand new curbs on spending in exchange for authorizing more debt.

Washington is facing a series of looming deadlines on budget and spending matters, and Mr. Trump’s new stance could pave the way for a deal with Democrats on one of them.

But it also adds another headache for GOP leaders who’ve been struggling to unify their troops on Capitol Hill.

“It’s our job to inform Congress of the debt ceiling, and it’s their job [to] raise it,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said. “We need to make sure we pay our debts. We’re still committed to making sure that gets raised.”

The government has been bumping up against the nearly $20 trillion debt ceiling for months, and the Treasury Department has been using “extraordinary measures” to keep from breaching it. The department says it will run out of room by Sept. 29.

If Congress doesn’t extend the credit line by then, the government would have to default on some obligations.

At the same time, Mr. Trump has thrown a wrench in the other big deadline — the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year, when the government will need updated funding legislation.

The president this week said he would embrace a government shutdown unless Congress approves the first installment of money for his border wall. Democrats said they won’t accept any funding bill that does include wall money.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan signaled Thursday that the fight may be delayed. He said the Senate won’t be able to finish up a spending bill by Oct. 1, so Congress will have to pass a short-term stopgap bill to keep the government open into December.

“We’re going to have to have an extension so that we can process all these bills,” Mr. Ryan said on CNBC.

He did express optimism at being able to get the debt ceiling raised in time.

And the speaker brushed aside questions about dissonance between Congress and Mr. Trump, saying they’re on the same page on the big issues.

The president earlier in the day had called out Mr. Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for failing to attach a debt limit increase to a veterans benefits bill.

And Mr. Trump, on Twitter, took an additional swipe at Mr. McConnell for failing to get an Obamacare repeal through his chamber.

But Mrs. Sanders, in the first on-camera regular briefing in weeks, dismissed talk of tension.

“I think the relationships are fine,” she said. “There are a lot a shared goals. That is what we are focused on.”

In a barrage of early morning tweets, Mr. Trump also attacked Democrats, saying they’re the obstructionists at this point.

“Now we have a big deal with Dems holding them up (as usual) on Debt Ceiling approval,” he wrote. “Could have been so easy — now a mess!”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi responded, saying the president shouldn’t look for Democrats to help raise the debt ceiling.

“With the White House, House and Senate under one party control, the American people expect and deserve a plan from Republicans to avert a catastrophic default and ensure the full faith and credit of the United States,” the California Democrat said. “With so much at risk for hard-working families, Republicans need to stop the chaos and sort themselves out in a hurry.”

She didn’t make it clear how far Democrats were willing to go in a standoff that could risk a U.S. default on debt payments.

Republicans insist they won’t allow the country to default on obligations when the government runs out of borrowing room. But GOP leaders also aren’t sure how to get from here to there given the insistence by some conservatives that the debt debate be used to exact more limits to runaway spending.

Mrs. Pelosi also said this week that Democrats won’t cooperate on any bill that funds the border wall, reacting to Mr. Trump’s willingness to risk a government shutdown over the matter.

The White House on Thursday didn’t back away from the threat.

“He will continue fighting for funding,” Mrs. Sanders said at the daily White House briefing. “This president is going to see it through.”

Mr. Trump has come under fire for pressuring Congress to fund the wall after failing to fulfill his campaign promise that Mexico would pay for it.

In another sign of the souring relations between Mr. Trump and his GOP allies in Congress, Mrs. Sanders blasted Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker for saying the president has not yet shown that he can run the country.

“I think that’s a ridiculous and outrageous claim and doesn’t dignify a response from this podium,” she said.

Speaking to reporters last week in the wake of the president’s response to deadly violence at a white nationalist demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, Mr. Corker said Mr. Trump mishandled the issue.

The war of words with Mr. Corker is just one of many battles that Mr. Trump is having with veteran Republican leaders in Congress in recent weeks.

Mr. Corker also said he thinks there must be “radical changes” in the White House.

“The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful,” he said.

Dave Boyer and Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

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