Trump says U.S. debt ceiling 'mess' could have been avoided



WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Thursday congressional leaders could have avoided a legislative “mess” if they had heeded his advice on raising the U.S. debt ceiling, renewing criticism of fellow Republicans whose support he needs to advance his policy agenda.

Trump said he had advised Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan to link passage of legislation raising the debt ceiling to a measure on veterans affairs that he signed on Aug. 12.

“I requested that Mitch M & Paul R tie the Debt Ceiling legislation into the popular V.A. Bill (which just passed) for easy approval,” Trump said a in Twitter post.

“They … didn’t do it so now we have a big deal with Dems holding them up (as usual) on Debt Ceiling approval. Could have been so easy-now a mess!” he added, referring to Democrats.

The Treasury Department, already using “extraordinary measures” to remain current on its obligations, has said the limit on the amount the federal government may borrow must be raised by Sept. 29.

The issue is one of the must-pass measures Congress will take up when it returns on Sept. 5 from its August recess. Another is a spending bill: Congress will have about 12 working days from when it returns from the break to approve spending measures to keep the government open.

Trump threatened on Tuesday to shut down the government if Congress failed to secure funding for his long-promised wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. His threat, which added a new complication to Republicans’ months-long struggle to reach a budget deal, rattled markets and drew rebukes from some Republicans.

Democrats have slammed Trump over his comments.

On the debt ceiling issue, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday that with Republicans controlling the White House and both chambers in Congress, “the American people expect and deserve a plan from Republicans to avert a catastrophic default and ensure the full faith and credit of the United States.”

On Thursday, investors were more broadly waiting for speeches on Friday by central bank governors at a conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for any new indications on monetary policy. U.S. stocks opened higher but then turned negative, and U.S. Treasury yields edged higher.

Yields on Treasury bills due in early October rose on concerns that payments on the debt could be delayed if lawmakers fail to raise the debt ceiling before the government runs out of funds.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks at a weekly press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 27, 2017.Yuri Gripas

“There’s disjointedness because of the debt ceiling,” said Lou Brien, a market strategist at DRW Trading in Chicago.


Trump’s renewed criticism of the Republican leaders came just a day after the White House and McConnell issued separate statements saying they were continuing to work together on shared priorities, seeking to counter news reports that their relationship is disintegrating.

Trump and McConnell “remain united on many shared priorities, including middle class tax relief, strengthening the military, constructing a southern border wall, and other important issues,” the White House said in its statement.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) (L) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speak to reporters after meeting with President Trump at the White House in Washington, U.S. February 27, 2017.Jonathan Ernst

Trump also reiterated his criticism of McConnell on Thursday over the Senate’s failure in July to pass a bill to replace Democratic former President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, legislation opposed by Republicans since it was enacted in 2010.

“The only problem I have with Mitch McConnell is that, after hearing Repeal & Replace for 7 years, he failed!That should NEVER have happened!,” Trump said in a tweet.

McConnell offered muted criticism of Trump on Thursday, saying he was “a little concerned about some of the trade rhetoric” by the president and others.

Trump has repeatedly condemned trade deals he believes are bad for American workers and for the U.S. economy. On Tuesday he cast doubt on any deal emerging to improve the North America Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada. “We’ll end up probably terminating NAFTA at some point,” he said.

“Trade is a winner for America,” McConnell told a gathering of Kentucky farmers and lawmakers. “You may or may not know this, but of all the current free trade agreements that we have with the various countries all around the world, if you add them all up, we actually have a trade surplus.”

“The assumption that every free trade agreement is a loser for America is largely untrue,” McConnell said.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that McConnell and Trump were locked in a political “cold war,” especially after an Aug. 9 phone call it said devolved into a shouting match. On that day and the next, Trump assailed McConnell via Twitter, angered by a speech McConnell had given saying Trump had “excessive expectations” of Congress.

(Story refiles to delete duplicated phrase ‘which added’ in seventh paragraph.)

Reporting by David Alexander, Makini Brice and Ayesha Rascoe in Washington; Karen Brettell and Megan Davies in New York; Writing by David Alexander; Editing by Frances Kerry


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