Lawmakers Have Missed at Least Six Deadlines in Debt Debate
The next deadline: introducing a bill today in the House
With Republicans and Democrats at loggerheads about how to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, House Speaker John Boehner and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner have both indicated that debt limit legislation must be introduced in the House today in order for it to win approval from both houses of Congress and President Obama by August 2, when the Treasury Department says the U.S. will default on its spending obligations. So, will Monday bring big news on the legislative front--some meaningful breakthrough in the political gridlock? If lawmakers' history of missing debt limit deadlines over the past several months is any indication, we shouldn't hold our breath. Let's review:
May 16 - In three letters to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker John Boehner on January 6, April 4, and May 2, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner urges Congress to raise the debt ceiling by May 16 or risk a U.S. default. When Congress misses the deadline, the Treasury Department takes "extraordinary measures" to "temporarily postpone the date that the United States would otherwise default on its obligations" to August 2, when "the borrowing authority of the United States will be exhausted."
June 31 - On June 1, Speaker Boehner tells reporters a deal "needs to be done over the next month" if "we're serious about no brinksmanship and no rattling investors ... There's no reason to bump up against" August 2." Reflecting on Boehner's optimistic comments, The Hill wonders whether the debt-ceiling talks "could be much different from" the down-to-the-minute government-shutdown negotiations in April.
July 4 - In mid-June, Vice President Joe Biden predicts that the bipartisan deficit reduction group he's leading will hammer out a plan before the July 4th congressional recess, since the team was tackling "the really hard stuff" and "making real progress." Politico explains that "much of July is still needed for Congress to write complicated changes in federal programs and raise the federal debt ceiling" before August 2 (now consider that we have only eight days until August 2). The fourth of July comes and goes without a deal.
July 16 - On Thursday, July 14, President Obama gives a bipartisan group of congressional leaders "24 to 36 hours" to come up with a debt limit agreement that could pass both chambers or else be called back to the White House for more talks over the weekend. The weekend ends with Speaker Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor meeting secretly with Obama but making no progress on a deal.
July 22 - Back in early July, the Obama administration floated July 22 as the date by which congressional leaders must strike a deficit-reduction deal if the government hoped to write and pass legislation by August 2. Instead, July 22 witnesses Boehner dramatically walking away from negotiations over disagreements with Obama on revenue increases.
July 24 - In a conference call with Republican lawmakers on Saturday, Boehner says he wants to see substantial progress on a plan to raise the debt ceiling by 2 p.m. on Sunday, before the Asian markets open, according to National Journal. That progress doesn't materialize. The Asian markets respond to the debt standoff better than expected, however, perhaps because analysts still believe lawmakers will reach a deal by August 2. That is, of course, if they start hitting their deadlines.