Senate GOP Leader Sets Up Another Debt Ceiling Fight

Susan Walsh/AP

It's a month ending with a "y" or "r," so that means it's time for another political fight over the debt ceiling.

On Fox News Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made it clear he's going to push for policy riders on an increase in the debt ceiling.

"I think for the president to ask for a clean debt ceiling, when we have a debt the size of our economy, is irresponsible," McConnell said Sunday. "So we ought to discuss adding something to his request to raise the debt ceiling that does something about the debt or produces at least something positive for our country." And while McConnell again insisted that the U.S. would not default on its debt, he added "We ought to attach something significant for the country to his request to increase the debt ceiling."

The U.S. debt limit must be raised by the end of February, says Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, if the U.S. is not to default on its debt. Lew asked Congress in a letter Wednesday to raise the limit by February 7.

Right now, especially after what happened last fall, it's hard to see the Obama administration compromising on a "clean" debt-limit extension, which would have no other policies or spending cuts attached. But McConnell isn't the only one looking for a fight. "The speaker has said that we should not default on our debt, or even get close to it, but a 'clean' debt limit increase simply won't pass in the House," John Boehner's spokesman Michael Steel said this week.

Back in October, GOP leaders agreed to pass a clean extension of the debt ceiling at the last minute as part of the deal to end the government shutdown, but did so without the support of most House Republicans. Now, with elections coming up, a vote to extend the limit is even harder for some members to stomach.

With the State of the Union and the annual Republican retreat coming up this week, there's even less time than there may seem for Congress to deal with the ceiling. It's going to be a busy couple of weeks, and we may have yet another deadline debt-limit standoff right around the corner.

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