When Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama cut their deal in April on a continuing resolution to fund the government for the remainder of fiscal 2011 at a level only $78.3 billion below what Obama had originally requested for the year, it should have been obvious Boehner would come back and cut a similarly bad deal to increase the debt limit.
In the April CR, Boehner agreed to a level of federal spending that predictably required running a massive deficit in this fiscal year -- which ends on Sept. 30.
When the White House Office of Management and Budget published Obama's fiscal 2012 budget on Feb. 14, it included an estimate of the fiscal 2011 deficit the government would run under Obama's proposal. It was $1.645119 trillion.
Cutting $78.3 billion from what Obama planned to spend in fiscal 2011 would have left a deficit of 1.566819 trillion.
Now, let's do some arithmetic.
On Oct. 1, 2010, the first day of fiscal 2011, the portion of the national debt subject to the statutory limit stood at $13.510840 trillion. By April 14, 2011, the day Boehner pushed the CR through the Republican-majority House, the debt subject to the limit had grown to $14.218621 trillion.
That meant the debt had increased $707.781 billion up to that point in the fiscal year.
Subtract that $707.781 billion from the $1.566819 trillion in deficit spending that would result over the course of the full year as a result of the Boehner-Obama CR deal (using the OMB's deficit projection as the baseline), and you get about $859.038 billion in anticipated 2011 deficit spending that had not happened yet (assuming that deficit spending and federal borrowing run more or less in tandem).
However, when the House approved the Boehner-Obama deal on April 14, the federal debt of $14.218621 trillion was just $75.379 billion below the legal debt limit of $14.294000 trillion.
To engage in the approximately $859.038 billion in additional fiscal 2011 deficit spending anticipated by the Boehner-Obama CR deal -- assuming OMB's deficit projection -- would require lifting the debt limit by $783.659 billion ($859.038 billion minus $75.379 billion) just to give the government the borrowing authority to get through Sept. 30.
In other words, assuming OMB's fiscal 2011 deficit projection was accurate, Boehner was implicitly agreeing to lift the debt limit by about $783.659 billion when he agreed to a CR that set spending for this year at a level just $78.3 billion below what Obama had originally requested.
Is this too harsh an analysis? Perhaps.