Despite talking for months about using the debt ceiling as leverage to get Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to pass a budget, spending cuts and entitlement reform, House Republicans are expected to vote on a temporary debt ceiling increase tomorrow.
House leaders on Monday unveiled legislation to permit the government to continue borrowing money through May 18 in order to stave off a first-ever default on U.S. obligations. It is slated for a vote on Wednesday.
Although President Obama is getting a temporary break from the debt ceiling fight as a result of this latest move by Republicans, he'll be anything but satisfied. After all, President Obama wants the debt ceiling completely eliminated and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has repeatedly said a short term increase isn't acceptable. On the other hand, Carney also refused last week to explain how much of an increase in the debt ceiling Obama is looking for.
The question is extremely simple: If Congress agrees to meet the president's demands and hike the debt ceiling without any preconditions, what dollar figure and/or time frame would the president like to see in the legislation? Increasing the debt ceiling isn't a hypothetical or symbolic action. It involves extending the government's ability to borrow a finite amount of money -- you know, actual dollars and cents. Carney doesn't even try to answer the reporter's basic and reasonable question; instead, he reverts back to mindless repetitions of Obama's exhortations for Congressional action. Yeah, we got all that, Jay. Your boss prattled endlessly about it on Monday.
In case you're wondering, we still don't know how much of an increase Obama wants, but Republicans are going to vote for a temporary increase anyway. The legislation on the table for a vote tomorrow doesn't give a specific dollar amount either, but simply states the government will be funded through May 18. Naturally, this is when the next big fight will happen. The good news? The legislation punishes politicians in the do-nothing Senate for failing to pass a budget for more than 1360 days.
The measure also contains a "no budget, no pay" provision that withholds pay for lawmakers if the chamber in which they serve fails to pass a congressional budget resolution by April 15. That's a provision designed to press the Senate to pass a budget.
Meanwhile, the National Debt is $16.4 trillion and climbing.