Crisis, averted: Senate to take up House debt ceiling bill, says Reid

posted at 3:11 pm on January 23, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

And when I say “crisis, averted,” …just know that I don’t actually mean that.

The major players are now more or less on board with the House GOP’s plan for a temporary debt ceiling extension, which suspends the political time crunch through July/August-ish and threatens to withhold Senators’ pay without a signed, sealed, and delivered official budget. The White House indicated their assent to the approach on Tuesday, and the “ayes” had it on the House floor on Wednesday afternoon (285 — 144, with 86 Democrats making up for 33 Republican defections):

House Republicans are advancing a novel plan to suspend enforcement of the federal debt limit through May 18, a move that would lift the threat of a government default and relieve the air of crisis that has surrounded their budget battle with President Obama. …

The White House tacitly endorsed the proposal Tuesday, issuing a statement that said Obama “would not oppose” the temporary respite. …

Under the proposal, the legal limit on government borrowing — now set at $16.4 trillion — would remain intact, but its enforcement would be suspended until May 18. In the meantime, the Treasury could continue borrowing to cover the cost of Social Security checks, the military payroll, interest payments to the nation’s creditors, and other obligations.

Of course, the vote couldn’t go down without some of the requisite opposition from the House Minority Leader hoping for still more concessions for a “clean hike” from the GOP, but Speaker Boehner’s promise to put forth a House budget that would balance the budget within ten years reportedly helped to put off the inter-divisiveness for which Pelosi was no doubt hoping.

Nancy Pelosi privately urged House Democrats this morning to vote against the House GOP’s plan for a temporary suspension of the debt ceiling, a House Dem aide says. The Dem game plan: Dems are still holding out for the possibility that they can force Republicans to agree to a clean debt limit hike, possibly even one that lasts a year. …

According to a Dem aide, Pelosi privately told House Dems this morning that this will set a bad precedent for more GOP debt ceiling game playing. The mere fact that any conditions are attached to it will open the door to the possibility that the GOP could try to attach more conditions to the next extension of the debt limit, which will come up soon, because this one is temporary.

But with Republicans’ relative unity, that was nothing doing; and over on the Senate side, Majority Leader Harry Reid is fine with what he’s titling a debt ceiling victory:

“We’re going to move to work on this legislation,” Reid told reporters. He also said the Senate will move through the regular process to approve a budget.

Reid cast the legislation as a victory for Democrats, calling it a “clean debt ceiling” and saying it “surrenders the hostages” Republicans were holding by insisting for cuts in exchange for a debt ceiling increase. …

Senate Democrats quickly beat the drums that the debt ceiling bills is a win, saying that folded to President Barack Obama’s insistence that he won’t negotiate on the debt limit.

“This is the president’s second big victory in a row,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

I’d think Sen. Rand Paul would basically agree, but there you have it. Barring any other political theatrics (which I won’t dismiss just yet — the remaining month before we hit the ceiling is still plenty of time for shenanigans), the extension will likely make its way up to the president’s desk and defer this particular showdown. And hey, maybe we’ll even get a legitimate, lawful budget out of it. Fancy that.


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