Last week as the government teetered on the precipice of default, the House cleared legislation to raise the debt limit at least until early December. In effect, the can was kicked just a bit down the road before Congress will have to decide again on a pressing economic matter.
But the federal debt-limit that was signed into law by President Biden allows the government to finance operations through Dec. 3. “The recent increase in the debt limit provides only a temporary reprieve,” said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, “and Treasury will need to use certain extraordinary measures through Dec. 3.”
In effect, the government is running on fumes, a short-term spending bill.
For the most part, the default has been delayed, indirectly put on hold by a procedural vote along party lines, as expected, 219 to 206. The lawmakers can exhale for now but will have to gear up again to expand the law.
Another default deadline looms in December and once more Democrats, already stressed to the limits, will have to go to the drawing boards again in order to avoid a fiscal fiasco.
What all this means is that some time has been borrowed before the nation could no longer pay its debts. To delay the default 11 Senate Republicans had to join the Democrats for the procedural vote. But in a few weeks the simmering discord will force another measure to stifle the promise by Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, who said that no support for an extension is in the cards the next time.
“I write to inform you that I will not provide such assistance again if your all-Democrat government drifts into another avoidable crisis,” McConnell wrote in a letter to Biden last Friday. At play in the impasse is the demand from Republicans that Democrats resort to the budget reconciliation process, in order to raise the debt limit. That process is one the Democrats are hoping will fulfill their aim to expand the social safety net, along with mitigating climate change.
There is no way to discern how things will develop in the coming weeks, and it is all the more baffling that an agreement can’t be reached between the parties on the debt limit. It’s not that they haven’t done it in the past.
Treasury Secretary Yellen and a few prominent Democrats have suggested that the debt limit be removed from lawmakers’ hands, which would then transfer the authority of raising it to Yellen, the treasury secretary, rather than Congress.
Speaker Pelosi has also endorsed the idea, stating that “I think it has merit.”
Overall, it’s about money, right, and it should be in the hands of those who deal with such issues on a day-to-day basis.