CHN: Debt Limit Must Be Raised Before the New Year
Congress has the authority to set the ceiling on the amount of debt the federal government can accrue. The current $12.104 trillion debt ceiling will be reached before January 1. On December 16 the House passed by a vote of 218-214 H.R.4314, To Permit Continued Financing of Government Operations, increasing the debt ceiling by $290 billion, enough for the government to borrow for another month.
The Senate has come to an agreement to take up the House’s $290 billion increase on Christmas Eve, just after taking the final vote on health legislation. Under the agreement, 60 votes will be required, but no amendments will be allowed. The Senate will take up a longer extension of the debt ceiling on January 20, just after they return from the holiday recess. At that time, up to 10 amendments will be in order. Among the amendments now planned are the Conrad (D-ND)-Gregg (R-NH) proposal for a commission to recommend ways of reducing the long-term debt and deficits, including limits on entitlement spending; a Reid (D-NV) amendment to require new expenditures to be paid for; other Republican amendments aimed at reducing spending; and a Thune (R-SD) amendment to prohibit Congress from spending surplus TARP funds (funds committed but unspent from the financial industry bailout legislation). The House jobs bill (see above) uses some of the surplus TARP funds for job creation investments. The debate on increasing the debt is often used by the minority party to point out what it views as excessive spending by the majority party. This time, members of both parties are intent on demonstrating their concern about the debt.