The treasury secretary is unlikely to get his wish. Both sides are so far apart, and feel they have so much time, that it's impossible to imagine the issue being resolved before the end of June, or maybe early July. Especially not with Speaker John Boehner telling President Obama that the White House can forget about getting a so-called "clean" bill, that is, one that raises the ceiling without other measures to control spending. "There will not be an increase in the debt limit without something really, really big attached to it," Boehner said at a fundraiser on April 9.
But here's the problem for Republicans. They control the House of Representatives. The debt ceiling has to be raised -- Boehner has always conceded that -- and the party in power has to do it. Even as Boehner demands spending concessions as the price of raising the ceiling, the White House knows that in the end, he will have to pass a bill. "Our bargaining power derives from our controlling the House but is also limited by it," said a House GOP source.
In the Senate, on the other hand, minority Republicans will be free to oppose any debt-ceiling bill that isn't to their liking, because in the end, it will be the Democrats' responsibility to pass it. Protest-minded Republicans are heartened by Obama's recent admission that his own vote against raising the debt ceiling in 2006 was "a political vote as opposed to doing what was important for the country."
"People know there is hypocrisy coming out of the White House," said the GOP Senate source. "Someone who took a political vote and let the other party pass the debt-ceiling bill -- well, it's a little difficult for him now to say, you shouldn't do that."
The bottom line is, the debt-ceiling issue won't be settled before an extended game of chicken, one in which Republicans will undoubtedly win some concessions but will, in the end, have to give in.