Mitch McConnell Foreshadows Another Debt Ceiling Fight In 2014

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters on Tuesday that he expects another battle over raising the debt ceiling in 2014.

The Kentucky Republican said “I doubt” many GOP members in the House or Senate would agree to lifting the country’s borrowing authority without conditions attached.

“I can’t imagine it being done clean,” he said.

While he said the debt limit is an opportunity for Republicans to get President Barack Obama’s attention, McConnell suggested it’d be the House GOP majority’s job to come up with any demands in order to avert defaulting on the country’s obligations.

McConnell is up for re-election in 2014 and is fending off tea party challenger Matt Bevin.

The statutory debt limit deadline is Feb. 7. After that, the Treasury Department may take extraordinary measures to continue borrowing and pay the country’s bills for at least several weeks, if not longer, before exhausting its authority.

Obama has drawn a hard line against making any concessions to raise the debt ceiling, arguing that it’s Congress’ job to pay the bills it has incurred. Twice this year, Republicans have held the debt limit hostage to ransom demands before ultimately caving and lifting it cleanly, without policy concessions, most recently this past October.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) also suggested recently that Republicans will make demands in order to raise the debt limit. House GOP leadership aides are mum on what to expect.

Senate Democratic leaders aren’t sweating the threat. “The debt limit is going to be increased and Democrats are not going to negotiate over this,” a Democratic Senate leadership aide told TPM in response to McConnell’s remarks. “The only question is how much pain Republicans want to cause for themselves and the economy before that happens.”

The White House also isn’t taking the GOP’s threat of default seriously.

“The President’s position has not changed,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday. Regarding the idea that Republicans might wage another debt limit battle, he said, “We certainly don’t expect them to do that again.”

In an October interview with National Review, after he was forced to swoop in at the last minute and negotiate the terms of the GOP’s surrender, McConnell signaled that Republicans wouldn’t risk another debt ceiling standoff.

“Well, for one, we’re not going to do this again in connection with the debt ceiling or with a government shutdown,” he said, insisting that Republicans must keep the focus on Obamacare ahead of the 2014 mid-term elections.

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