WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell voiced doubt on Tuesday that the U.S. debt ceiling would be eliminated permanently, an idea floated by Democrats and embraced by Republican President Donald Trump last week.
"As far as the debt ceiling is concerned, we will not be revisiting the debt ceiling until some time next year," McConnell told reporters. "And getting Congress to give up a tool like that would probably be quite a challenging undertaking."
Congress must periodically raise the debt limit to keep the U.S. government borrowing and operating. Lawmakers sometimes take advantage of that need to push through policy or spending changes.
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Trump voiced support last week for the idea of eliminating the statutory cap on the U.S. Treasury Department's authority to borrow, saying he discussed the possibility with congressional leaders.
"It complicates things. It's really not necessary," Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday.
At a White House meeting a day earlier, Trump made a surprise deal with Democratic congressional leaders for extending the debt limit for three months tied to hurricane relief legislation and funding for government operations into December.
In the meeting, which was also attended by top congressional Republicans and administration officials, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer proposed eliminating the debt limit, and Trump and Vice President Mike Pence said they liked the idea, one person familiar with the meeting said.
White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney told Fox News Channel that Trump was frustrated by the way the debt ceiling has been used and had asked him to "explore ways to sort of depoliticize it."
"We’ll continue to work on that. I don’t think the debt ceiling ... will be an issue until January, February of next year," Mulvaney said.
Some Republicans expressed opposition to Trump's deal with the Democrats, and conservative groups accused the president of caving in rather than insisting on spending cuts to accompany the debt ceiling increase.
But the House of Representatives and the Senate, which are both controlled by Republicans, quickly approved the deal, including about $15 billion in hurricane-related aid, and it was signed into law by Trump on Friday.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan and David Morgan; Writing by Doina Chiacu and Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Peter Cooney and David Gregorio)