McConnell on Debt Limit: 'We Will Figure Some Way to Handle That'

By Susan Jones | March 9, 2015 | 7:02am EDT

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (AP File Photo)

( - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says the Republican-led Congress "will figure some way to handle" the debt ceiling, which reaches its limit a week from today.

"Are Republicans going to vote to lift the debt ceiling?" Bob Schieffer asked McConnell on CBS's "Face the Nation."

"Well, the debt ceiling will be handled over a period of months," McConnell responded. "I made it very clear after the November election that we're certainly not going to shut down the government or default on the national debt. We will figure some way to handle that. And, hopefully, it might carry some other important legislation that we can agree on in connection with it."

Previous Republican attempts to attach spending limits on legislation suspending the debt ceiling have failed.

In a letter to congressional leaders on Friday, Lew said that as of Monday, March 16, the outstanding debt of the United States will be at the statutory limit set by Congress in February 2014.

"Absent an increase in the debt limit, the Treasury Department will have to take extraordinary measures to continue to finance the government on a temporary basis," Lew wrote.

"Accordingly, I respectfully ask Congress to raise the debt limit as soon as possible. Lew said he hoped this could be done "without controversy or brinksmanship."

According to the Treasury Department, the debt limit is the total amount of money that the United States government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations, including Social Security and Medicare benefits, military salaries, interest on the national debt, tax refunds, and other payments.

The debt limit does not authorize new spending commitments, Treasury notes. It simply allows the government to finance existing legal obligations that Congresses and presidents of both parties have made in the past."

Many conservative Republicans say government spending is the problem, and they oppose the practice of continuing to suspend the debt limit without spending conditions attached.

The debt limit now stands at $17.2 trillion, up from $11.3 trillion when Obama took office. One month after he was inaugurated, Congress raised the debt ceiling to $12.1 trillion, and it has gone up seven times since then.

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