Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday said Congress will not have to vote to raise the nation's borrowing limit until some time in 2018 thanks to the Treasury Department's flexibility in handling the debt ceiling once it is reinstated in December.
"We will not be revisiting the debt ceiling until next year," said McConnell, R-Ky.
The move undercuts Democrats who hoped to trade their votes this year for a debt ceiling increase in return for a vote to secure passage of so-called Dreamer legislation that would protect illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children.
The debt ceiling was suspended for three months, until Dec. 8, under a deal proposed by Democrats and endorsed by President Trump, who was eager to avert a spending standoff ahead of two weather disasters caused by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. The deal also included a three-month extension of government funding.
McConnell said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin would be able to use "extraordinary measures" to stay under the debt ceiling until sometime next year.
McConnell indicated that his goal in delaying a vote on the debt ceiling is to separate it from the 2018 spending package, which still faces a December deadline.
"The assumption by my counterparts [Democrats] is they would continue to have linkage between the debt ceiling and how we hope to resolve government spending in December," McConnell said. "I crafted the amendment and offered it to the flood bill and it does not eliminate extraordinary measures, which the Secretary of the Treasury has always had in connection to the debt ceiling and therefore I can confidently predict there will not be a connection with the debt ceiling and spending decisions in December. It doesn't mean we won't have to address the debt ceiling at some point but it will not be in December."
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the number-four Republican, said he believes lawmakers will have to take up an all-inclusive spending package known as an omnibus and that GOP lawmakers will not tolerate another short-term bill because they believe it hurts Defense readiness.