Unless Congress raises America's statutory debt ceiling, the national debt will hit its limit in mid-May, according to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, and the government will have no money for military salaries and Social Security payments, among other things.
This morning, House Speaker John Boehner called for major spending reforms to be attached to a debt-ceiling hike. In a USA Today op-ed on spending and the recent shutdown-averting compromise, he wrote:
President Obama also wants a debt limit increase, but says spending cuts and budget reforms shouldn't be attached to it. Americans will not stand for that. We must follow their will.
President Obama and congressional Democrats, meanwhile, want to raise the debt ceiling without including any other policy changes in the vote. Liberal Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) has gathered 20 signatures for a letter to Democratic House leaders warning them that:
To do otherwise, or to threaten to do so, or to leverage our duty to pay our bills to achieve a partisan advantage in budget disputes, jeopardizes the full faith and credit of the United States of America.
A Fox News poll last week showed 62 percent of respondents opposed to raising the debt ceiling, although the question asserted that a hike in the debt ceiling would "allow government spending to increase." With Friday night's spending deal being touted as a significant reduction in spending over the next six months, it's possible that pollsters will begin to ask this question differently.
From Geithner's description, it seems there is no choice.
Boehner once again finds himself confronting the idealists within his party's base. Tea partiers warned, during election season, that they did not want to raise the debt ceiling, but Boehner has steadfastly said he does not think it responsible to allow the federal government to shut down.
His solution: Vote to increase the debt ceiling, but attach more reductions in spending.
On Wednesday, President Obama will try to head him off, delivering a speech about big-picture spending reforms. The president has said he doesn't want other elements attached to the debt-ceiling vote. Democrats in the House, so far, are with him.