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Senate Republicans dismiss the possibility of a short-term debt limit increase

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Monday the U.S. will hit the debt limit as early as June 1.
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WASHINGTON — A number of Senate Republicans on Tuesday rejected the idea of lifting the debt ceiling temporarily to buy Congress more time to negotiate a larger measure with the White House that would prevent a default.

On Monday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the deadline to prevent a default on the nation's debt could be as early as June 1, four days before her previous prediction. The U.S. hit the statutory borrowing limit in January and has been using “extraordinary measures” to pay the bills.

Several GOP lawmakers said that pushing back the deadline will only shift negotiations into the future because Washington is known for addressing these crises at the last minute.

"If she [Yellen] would have said June 15, it would have been done closer to June 15," said Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D. "If she would have said July 1, it would have been done closer to July 1. This will always go down to the wire when you have divided government."

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., agreed it's a "silly" idea, telling reporters: "We all work around deadlines here. If we do a short-term extension, it means we won’t get into negotiations in earnest until three or four weeks before whatever the new extension is. That’s how this place works."

"We’ve been kicking the can down the road for four and a half years since I’ve been here," said Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind. "We need to at least agree to something without delaying it."

Asked if he would be open to a short-term debt ceiling increase, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said, "No, absolutely not. That's just a bunch of gimmicks."

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., also said that it's a "mistake" because it brings "more uncertainty."

Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., also poured cold water over a short-term extension, saying it isn’t a good idea, and cast doubt on whether it’d even have the votes.

“I would prefer that we get this done the first time. That always gets dicey. And, frankly, I don’t even know if there’d be the votes for that,” Thune told reporters. “I think there’s going to have to be a really earnest effort made to try and negotiate something that can get passed by the deadline.”

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., meanwhile, said he was open to a 30-day extension to lift the debt limit.

While members of Congress are not actively pursuing a short-term extension at the moment, Congress has passed such measures in recent debacles over the debt ceiling to allow more time for talks.

Senate Democratic leaders are keen on sticking to the White House's demand to pass a clean debt ceiling increase.

"Our position remains the same," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor Tuesday. "Both parties should do what we have done in the past, the last three times default faced us. Both parties should pass a clean bipartisan bill to avoid default together."

Schumer lashed out at House Republicans and specifically Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., for the debt limit bill they passed last week in the lower chamber. Schumer said McCarthy "caved to extremists" in agreeing to the legislation that would slash federal spending.

McCarthy, in a statement responding to Yellen's letter, said Monday that "House Republicans did their job." He also criticized President Joe Biden, saying he "has refused to do his job."

McCarthy did, however, accept Biden's invitation to meet with him and other top congressional leaders at the White House on May 9 to discuss the debt ceiling, a source familiar with the call confirmed.

House Democrats are also preparing a plan to pass a clean debt ceiling bill through a special rule, which could be brought to the floor without support from GOP leadership. It would, however, need all Democratic House members to vote for it — as well as a handful of Republicans — and at least 60 senators to defeat a filibuster in the Senate.