Today, President Obama sent the leaders in Congress officially requesting to increase the nation’s debt ceiling by an additional $1.2 trillion according to an article in the Washington Post. Under the rules established last August, Congress has 15 days to vote on this action. Unless both branches vote to reject it, the increase will be put into effect.
Obama initially sought to raise the debt ceiling last month. However, leaders of both parties asked him to hold off on this since both the House and Senate were on recess until later this month. The House returns for business on the 17th while the Senate returns to conduct business on January 23rd.
In order for the increase to be defeated, a number of things must occur. First, a resolution of disapproval must pass with a majority of votes in both Houses. This is what is termed a ‘free vote’, that is, a vote that members are able to take that provides them with a defense if, in a re-election campaign, an opponent attacks them for the debt increase. Then, Obama will veto the resolution. It then goes back to Congress, where each House must override the veto by a 2/3 margin. So, there will be a sufficient number to keep the veto from being overridden and the ceiling will become law.
When this happened in September, the House passed the resolution, while the Senate didn’t get the required majority, so the increase became law. This will eventually be the case this time as well, after partisans on both sides get to bewail the excessive spending and the lack of revenues that mandate us to incur this level of debt which is hard to imagine. There is little doubt that, regardless of which party wins the White House or Congress next November that we will get to continue witnessing this dog and pony show for the foreseeable future.