'Less fireworks' expected with debt limit increase request

Wednesday - 1/4/2012, 12:56pm EST

Peter Schroeder, reporter, The Hill

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By Michael O'Connell
@moconnellWFED
Web Editor
Federal News Radio

President Barack Obama decided not to send a request to Congress to increase the nation's debt limit. The delay was at the request of several members of Congress.

"To understand the reason for the delay we have to go back to the original debt limit increase deal that was struck in August," said Peter Schroeder, a reporter with the Hill. He joined The Federal Drive with Tom Temin to shed some light on why some in Congress asked the President to delay his request to raise the debt ceiling.

"When that deal was struck, it included provisions that said that the President would get a certain increase of the debt limit up front and then he'd have two opportunities to ask for further increases to the debt limit whenever the government came within $100 billion of that limit," Schoeder said. "We saw the President ask for one already and now he's getting ready to ask for the second one, one that will be worth about $1.2 trillion."

A dispute has arisen about when that request should go in because members of Congress would like the chance to weigh in on the potential increase before it went into effect.

Despite this dispute, Schroeder anticipates that this should be a routine process. "It should definitely be a lot less fireworks than what we saw in August with that last minute deal," he said.

Under the deal that was struck in August, the President has the chance to make a request to increase the limit to the pre-authorized amount. Congress then has the chance to vote on whether its disapproves the increase. If both chambers do that, then the President would theoretically veto it because he would want the increase to go through.

"In a way, it's a little bit of a routine, almost symbolic gesture," said Schroeder. It's an opportunity for members of Congress to put their objection to any increase on the record.

What led to the delay surrounding the latest request is the requirement that says that members of Congress will have 15 days to file their objections. Congress is currently in a pro forma session until Jan. 17, with many of its members out of town. The delay allows members time to get back in time to weigh in on the measure.

"The President agreed to hold off and not formally submit that request until sometime in the future and now that will allow the chambers to come back from their holiday break and hold a vote on whether or not they approve of this debt limit increase, although we can pretty much expect the President would veto any attempt to block it," Schroeder said.

The 2012 spending bills that Congress and the President agreed to at the end of the 2011 generated a level of spending that was nominally agreed to by both parties as far back as August. The debt limit increase then is an outgrowth of that, which may explain why a big fight is not expected this time around.

"The debt limit is kind of the formal acknowledgement of how much debt the government is going to need to take on to meet those spending obligations," Schroeder said.

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