WASHINGTON — The Latest on budget talks in Congress (all times local):
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says he has “backup plans” to fund the government through at least the beginning of September if Congress fails to heed his request to increase the government’s borrowing cap before its August break.
Mnuchin told a House panel Monday that his August deadline “is not the timeframe that would create a serious problem.”
At issue is the need to increase the government’s debt limit to prevent the possibility of a default on U.S. obligations like interest payments or federal employee salaries. It is feared such a default would roil the economy and harm the government’s credit rating.
By backup measures, Mnuchin apparently was referring to accounting maneuvers called “extraordinary measures” that permit Treasury to free up short-term cash to meet its obligations.
Republicans controlling the House are taking the first steps to approve President Donald Trump’s big budget increase for veterans’ health care and the Pentagon.
At stake is an $89 billion spending bill for the Department of Veterans Affairs and Pentagon construction projects that’s scheduled for a preliminary panel vote on Monday. The bill would give the VA a 5 percent budget hike for the budget year beginning in October as the agency works to improve wait times and correct other problems.
The Defense Department, meanwhile, would receive a $2 billion, 10 percent increase for military construction projects at bases in both the U.S. and abroad.
Republicans are still struggling to come up with a broader budget that would dictate spending levels for other agencies.