Budget Negotiations Continue — And So Does the Clock on the Debt Ceiling

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) listens during a press conference on Capitol Hill March 7, 2013 in Washington, D.C.
National Journal
Elahe Izad
Add to Briefcase
Elahe Izad
Oct. 30, 2013, 2:10 p.m.

With so much at­ten­tion fo­cused on what, if any­thing, can be ac­com­plished by the budget con­fer­ence, it would be easy to for­get about the debt lim­it.

But many of the budget con­fer­ees have not for­got­ten.

“My goal is to fund the gov­ern­ment between now and Sept. 30 and make sure we don’t have an­oth­er gov­ern­ment shut­down,” said Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, R-S.C. “When it comes to rais­ing the debt lim­it for a long peri­od of time — that’s where we need to talk about en­ti­tle­ment re­form and tax code re­form.”

He ad­ded: “That’s the point of lever­age.”

The Oc­to­ber deal that ended the gov­ern­ment shut­down, fun­ded the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment through Jan. 15, and cre­ated the budget con­fer­ence also raised the debt lim­it through Feb. 7. And, budget deal or not, Con­gress will still be faced with wheth­er to lift that lim­it.

If the lim­it isn’t in­creased by Feb. 7, the Treas­ury De­part­ment still has some tools, of­ten called “ex­traordin­ary meas­ures,” to keep pay­ing the na­tion’s ob­lig­a­tions. But the Bi­par­tis­an Policy Cen­ter es­tim­ates those will run out by the end of Feb­ru­ary or mid-March.

When asked about the debt lim­it as an­oth­er arena for en­ti­tle­ment and tax ne­go­ti­ations, Sen. Jeff Ses­sions, the Alabama Re­pub­lic­an who serves as rank­ing mem­ber on the Sen­ate Budget Com­mit­tee, said, “We’re go­ing to need to con­tin­ue to use every op­por­tun­ity to cre­ate dis­cus­sions for pro­gress.”

“Even if we can’t reach an agree­ment in this com­mit­tee on some of these is­sues, maybe we can be­gin a dis­cus­sion that will lead to an agree­ment in Janu­ary and Feb­ru­ary,” he said.

In­deed, many mem­bers are bank­ing on budget ne­go­ti­ations yield­ing enough ac­cord that it would al­le­vi­ate the pres­sure cre­ated by the debt lim­it in the past.

“Let’s do this budget and reach an ac­cord, and I think if we reach the right ac­cord, it will give us the an­swer about what the debt lim­it should be,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. “I don’t want to do this and then go through a sep­ar­ate ne­go­ti­ation about the debt lim­it a month later.”

It’s un­clear wheth­er or how the debt ceil­ing will be used to ex­tract any sort of con­ces­sions this time around, par­tic­u­larly be­cause the dead­line to in­crease it will come closer to the 2014 midterm elec­tions. Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell has said he won’t use it in the fight to stop Obama­care.

Rep. Chris Van Hol­len of Mary­land, the top Demo­crat on the House Budget Com­mit­tee, called for the debt lim­it to be a part of any budget deal that emerges from the con­fer­ence.

“The whole is­sue of the debt ceil­ing should be a part of this dis­cus­sion,” he said. “If there’s an agree­ment reached, there should be a com­pre­hens­ive agree­ment.”

What We're Following See More »
FCC Tightens Internet Privacy Standards
5 hours ago

Along party lines, the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted to tighten privacy standards for Internet service providers. "The regulations will require providers to receive explicit customer consent before using an individual’s web browsing or app usage history for marketing purposes. The broadband industry fought to keep that obligation out of the rules."

Obama Commutes Another 98 Sentences
6 hours ago

President Obama commuted the sentences of another 98 drug offenders on Thursday. Most of the convicts were charged with conspiracy to distribute drugs or possession with intent to distribute. Many of the sentences were commuted to expire next year, but some will run longer. Others are required to enroll in residential drug treatment as a condition of their release.

DOJ Busts More Than 50 for Call Center Scam
6 hours ago

The Department of Justice announced today it's charged "61 individuals and entities for their alleged involvement in a transnational criminal organization that has victimized tens of thousands of persons in the United States through fraudulent schemes that have resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. In connection with the scheme, 20 individuals were arrested today in the United States and 32 individuals and five call centers in India were charged for their alleged involvement. An additional U.S.-based defendant is currently in the custody of immigration authorities."

Johnson on Ballot Everywhere, Followed by Stein, McMullin
8 hours ago
Is McMullin Building the GOP in Exile?
10 hours ago

Evan McMullin, the independent conservative candidate who may win his home state of Utah, is quietly planning to turn his candidacy into a broader movement for principled conservatism. He tells BuzzFeed he's "skeptical" that the Republican party can reform itself "within a generation" and that the party's internal "disease" can't be cured via "the existing infrastructure.” The ex-CIA employee and Capitol Hill staffer says, “I have seen and worked with a lot of very courageous people in my time [but] I have seen a remarkable display of cowardice over the last couple of months in our leaders.” McMullin's team has assembled organizations in the 11 states where he's on the ballot, and adviser Rick Wilson says "there’s actually a very vibrant market for our message in the urban northeast and in parts of the south."


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.