White House calls debt ceiling compromise ‘positive step forward’

The White House on Thursday called a proposed short-term debt ceiling increase a “positive step,” signaling support for the arrangement one day after initially appearing unenthused by the idea of kicking the can down the road.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced earlier Thursday that he had reached an agreement with Republicans to extend the debt ceiling into December with just 11 days until the nation was set to default.

“This is a positive step forward, the debt ceiling short-term deal we’re seeing,” White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One. “And it gives us some breathing room from the catastrophic default we were approaching because of Sen. McConnell’s decision to play politics with our economy.”

The agreement, according to a Senate aide, would increase the debt ceiling by $480 billion, which based on Treasury Department estimates would extend the debt ceiling until Dec. 3. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) confirmed during a floor speech that they had reached a deal.

Jean-Pierre said the White House would remain in close contact with Schumer’s team and follow his lead on how the compromise proceeds. A swift vote to approve the proposal hit a snag on Thursday, however, as some Senate Republican sources said members of their caucus were “surprised and disappointed” when McConnell unveiled the parameters of the deal with Schumer.

The White House’s acceptance of the deal, however, marked a shift from its position a day earlier, when press secretary Jen Psaki argued a more immediate, long-term solution to raise the debt ceiling would be preferable to a shorter term compromise.

“We could get this done today. We don’t need to kick the can. We don’t need to go through a cumbersome process that every day brings additional risks,” Psaki said Wednesday.

Jean-Pierre did not directly answer when asked what had changed in the White House’s view of the deal, instead pivoting to attacks on Republicans for blocking previous attempts to raise the debt limit.

“I want to be very clear here: this should have never been a political game from the start. Republicans should have never brought us to the brink of default like they did. Addressing the debt limit shouldn’t be a partisan football,” she said. “This is about paying the debt that both parties have already incurred.”

Tags Chuck Schumer debt ceiling Debt limit Jen Psaki Karine Jean-Pierre Mitch McConnell

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