Hakeem Jeffries won’t commit to a short-term debt ceiling deal

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., on Sunday wouldn’t commit to supporting a short-term extension of the debt ceiling and insisted on a “clean” debt ceiling lift, in an exclusive interview on “Meet the Press,” as congressional leaders remain in a gridlock to work out a deal.

Asked by NBC News’ Chuck Todd if whether he accepts the premise that Democrats won’t get a clean debt ceiling hike, Jeffries said: “I do not because we have a constitutional responsibility to make sure that we protect the full faith and credit of the United States of America.”

“Everyday Americans understand this principle: If you have a bill, you need to pay it,” he added. “If you fail to pay it. It’s going to adversely impact your credit rating, your credit score will drop. If your credit score drops, your costs are going to go up and if America defaults on our bills, that’s exactly what is going to happen. And everyone is going to pay the price.”

The White House is weighing trying to broker a short-term extension of the debt ceiling to allow more time to pass a larger increase, five sources familiar with the matter told NBC News last week — a backstop with three weeks until the current deadline in June. 

Jeffries argued that “the only responsible” action would be to help President Joe Biden raise the debt ceiling and avoid a default as Democrats did three times during the Trump administration.

Asked if a short-term fix is the best way forward, Jeffries said: “Well, I don’t think the responsible thing to do is to kick the can down the road when President Biden has been saying, for months — the position of leader Schumer, the position of House Democrats — has been we have to avoid a default.”

“America should pay its bills. Protect the full faith and credit of the United States of America,” he said.

House Republicans are pushing to attach spending cuts to a debt ceiling increase, while Democrats have been hesitant to negotiate over whether to pay the country’s bills or default. Democrats, resistant to policy conditions, have insisted on a clean debt limit hike. They want Congress to negotiate over spending cuts that Republicans have demanded in the separate government funding process, which has a deadline of Sept. 30.

Jeffries said Democrats are open to have discussions about what types of investments, spending, and revenues are “appropriate” to protect the “health, safety and economic wellbeing” of the American people.

“That’s a process that is available to us right now,” he said. “I don’t think we need to delay those discussions for a few months.”

Jeffries’ remarks come before he and other congressional leaders are scheduled to meet with Biden this week to discuss the looming debt limit deadline, which could be as early as June 1.

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