Top House Republican signals GOP lawmakers won't support lifting the debt ceiling and instead force Democrats to renew US's ability to pay the bills

Top House Republican signals GOP lawmakers won't support lifting the debt ceiling and instead force Democrats to renew US's ability to pay the bills
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Rep. Kevin Brady, TX
Republican Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas on Capitol Hill. Andrew Harnik/AP Photo
  • Rep. Kevin Brady said Democrats shouldn't rely on House GOP support to lift the debt ceiling.

  • Brady expressed frustration with Democrats, saying they hadn't spoken with the GOP about spending.

  • House Republicans may follow their Senate peers in opposing a debt-ceiling increase.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

A top House Republican indicated that GOP lawmakers were unlikely to support lifting the debt ceiling and instead put the onus on Democrats to do so, raising the risk of a perilous showdown that could engulf both chambers of Congress this fall.

Rep. Kevin Brady, the ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a Monday interview that Republicans had grown frustrated with Democrats circumventing them on a $1.9 trillion stimulus law using a legislative tactic known as reconciliation. They're also poised to muscle through a multitrillion social-spending plan on their own.

"Considering they haven't had a single conversation about spending, stimulus, or the debt with us to date, I think they, by their behavior, have taken responsibility on passing this by themselves," Brady told Insider in a Monday-night interview.

The Texas Republican added: "Unless they have a conversation with Republicans, certainly there won't be Republican support in the House. Take it or leave it, no conversations, no working together - it's their responsibility, unfortunately."

Brady's comments serve as a barometer of the GOP position in the lower chamber on the debt ceiling, given his influence as an architect of the 2017 Republican tax law. House Republicans may end up taking the lead of the Senate GOP under Mitch McConnell, as most Republicans in the upper chamber are banding together to oppose a debt-ceiling increase.

Some Senate Republicans are demanding spending cuts in exchange for their support, even though the GOP supported raising the debt ceiling multiple times under the Trump administration.

The previous debt-limit suspension expired on July 30, prompting the Treasury Department to take "extraordinary measures" to help pay off the government's bills, Secretary Janet Yellen said. Increasing the debt ceiling does not add to federal spending - it authorizes the US government to pay its current debt load.

The Congressional Budget Office forecast the Treasury could keep the government afloat until October or November, though Yellen said the pandemic was making it more difficult to accurately project when the department would exhaust its emergency powers.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy's office didn't respond to a request for comment. In July, McCarthy signed on to a letter from Republicans on the House budget panel calling for "spending restraints" as part of any agreement to lift or suspend the debt ceiling.

Reconciliation allows certain bills to be fast-tracked and passed with a simple-majority vote. Republicans used the same procedure to enact a major corporate tax cut under President Donald Trump. The GOP also embarked on a failed effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act that same year without Democratic support.

Other senior Republicans wouldn't go as far as Brady. Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri, the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, said Democratic congressional leaders hadn't responded to the letter they sent.

"We've heard crickets," Smith told Insider on Tuesday. "The Democrats have failed in leadership. They're not even negotiating or communicating, so apparently they don't care about the debt ceiling."

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