Congress still split as debt ceiling deadline approaches

As the November 3 deadline for passing legislation to raise the federal debt ceiling moves closer, Democrats and Republicans in the House are no closer to making a deal then they were before summer recess.

If the government’s borrowing limit is not increased above the current cap of $18.1 trillion, and Treasury defaults, the U.S. credit-rating, as well as global markets, could be at risk.

On Friday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), said her caucus will not negotiate on attachments to the debt-ceiling bill that many conservative Republicans are seeking in order to make further cuts to the federal budget.

“Let me be clear”, Pelosi said. “The full faith and credit of the United States of American is not negotiable. We want a clean bill in that respect.”

All but two of the House’s 188 Democratic members have pledged to vote ‘Yes’ to raise the government’s borrowing limit.

House Republicans, on the other hand, are somewhat split on the issue as conservatives are demanding that the bill include stipulations to cut federal spending, while pro-business moderates are more concerned that default be prevented.

Speaker Boehner, for example, had to take a scheduled vote on Friday off the docket because the $1.5 trillion debt increase, and $4 trillion in cuts over 10 years that the proposed bill called for satisfied neither faction.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), said negotiations are ongoing between the White House and House Republican leaders on a bill that would suspend mandatory sequester caps outlined in the Budget Control Act of 2011, and make funding cuts to Medicare.

Despite a debt-ceiling bill only being 32 votes shy of majority support according to the latest head-count, Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is pessimistic, saying that he doesn’t “see 218 (votes) for any clean bill.”

In a USA Today op-ed Monday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew pleaded Congress to put a passable bill together that “pay(s) the obligations that (it) has already incurred. This includes paying the salaries of our troops, providing benefits to veterans and Social Security recipients, and reimbursing hospitals for taking care of the sick.”

Lew also pointed out the monetary costs of waiting to the last minute in order to raise the debt limit for the Treasury Department: “According to the non-partisan Government Accountability Office, the 2013 debt limit impasse cost the American taxpayer between $38 million and $70 million in additional borrowing costs alone.”

According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, actual default will come between November 10 and November 19.


[AP] [The Hill] [USA Today]