A day after undercutting Republican congressional leaders by accepting Democratic terms of a debt ceiling increase, President Donald Trump on Thursday suggested he is open to eliminating the debt limit altogether.
Trump made the comment in response to a shouted question by a reporter during a meeting with advisers at the White House.
“It could be discussed,” the president said, according to a pool report. “There are a lot of good reasons to do that.”
The comment represented a continuation of a renewed effort by Trump to forge bipartisanship.
“The people of the U.S. want to see a coming together,” he said.
The idea of eliminating the need for Congress to take politically uncomfortable votes on raising the nation’s borrowing limit has been anathema to conservatives, who swiftly condemned the idea on Thursday.
“I would love to be able to do that with my credit cards as well,” quipped Mark Meckler, a co-founder of Tea Party Patriots who now serves as president of Citizens for Self-Governance. “It’s called fiscal insanity.”
Dan Holler, a spokesman for Heritage Action for America, said debt ceiling votes serve to highlight chronic overspending.
“Getting rid of the debt ceiling is akin to getting rid of the fire alarm in your home,” he said.
“I’m old enough to remember when this president campaigned against raising the national debt.”
Holler said any vote to raise the debt ceiling should be tethered to spending cuts or structural reform. He said emergency aid to the victims of Hurricane Harvey should stand on its own merits. He said Heritage Action would count a package tying it to a short-term debt limit extension as a “key vote” on its congressional scorecard.
Jason Pye, vice president of legislative affairs at FreedomWorks, expressed exasperation.
“I’m old enough to remember when this president campaigned against raising the national debt,” he said.
Pye said annual budget deficits are creeping back up toward the trillion-dollar range, which they reached following the 2008 financial collapse. He said it is “wholly fiscally irresponsible” to scrap the debt limit. Without leverage over the ceiling, he noted, congressional conservatives never would have been able to negotiate spending caps in 2011.
“It’s the only opportunity to rein in the size and scope of the federal government,” said Pye.
“It creates negotiating leverage for anyone who doesn’t think we should have unlimited spending,” he said.
But Meckler defended the president’s decision to side with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on a short, three-month extension of the debt ceiling. That will give Trump leverage during negotiations over spending for the rest of fiscal year 2018, he said.
Meckler said House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) both were advocating “in the most spineless way” to push back the next debt ceiling vote until after next year’s midterm elections.
The Republican leaders also refused, added Meckler, to back up Trump’s threat to risk a partial government shutdown over his proposed border wall.
“Any negotiating leverage the president might have had, they completely took away from him,” he said. “The sellouts are Ryan and McConnell … Those guys are the scumbags, and they’re the villains in this situation.”