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Steve Mnuchin: Debt ceiling is a "ridiculous concept"

Uwe Anspach/DPA

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin argued that the debt ceiling is a "somewhat ridiculous concept" during a discussion with Mike Allen at the debut of Axios' News Shapers event series Friday morning. "This isn't limit of what we can spend," he said, '"it's a payment limitation." He again called on Congress to raise the debt limit before summer recess.

Technically, he's right: The debt limit was invented nearly 100 years ago to free Congress from having to approve each new debt issuance. Instead, it gives Treasury the freedom to issue debt up to a certain level to make the financing of already approved spending more efficient.

But out of step with Republicans: Budget hawks see the debt ceiling as the only tool left in their belt for fighting the automatic growth of entitlement spending approved by previous Congresses. If the debate over healthcare is any indication, far right members of Congress will demand significant budgetary sacrifices to vote to allow the issuance of more debt.

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