This post has been updated
When Republicans agreed to raise the debt ceiling last year, not only did they credit Obama’s credit card by $2.1 trillion, they also gave him a lifeline until after the election. At the time, it was projected that $2.1 trillion in new debt allowance was sufficient to last until January 2013, sparing Obama the embarrassment of raising the debt ceiling right before the election. Well, it appears that we’ve blown through the new debt so quickly that we might bump up against the $16.394 trillion debt ceiling before November 2012.
Last week, Senator Rob Portman released an analysis showing that we will reach the debt ceiling before the end of the fiscal year:
According to Table 6-2 in the President’s Budget’s “Analytical Perspectives” volume, the President estimates the total debt subject to the statutory limit – growing by $132 billion per month – will reach $16.334 trillion at the end of FY 2012 (September 30, 2012). This is just $60 billion below the current debt limit. Thus, without a change in the debt trajectory, the debt ceiling will be eclipsed by October 15, 2012 unless the Department of Treasury again uses emergency protocols to shift that date past Election Day 2012.
Keep in mind that with passage of the extenders package, we will incur an additional $100 billion in debt by the end of the fiscal year. At this pace, we will blow through the new debt limit by a rate of almost $5 billion per day. Geithner is claiming that the deadline will be after the election, but it is still likely to come before Obama leaves office. Moreover, these projections are predicated on higher levels of revenue, not lower levels of spending. If economic growth stalls again, particularly due to higher oil prices, the revenues will tail off, bringing us closer to the debt limit at an even earlier date.
It is becoming quite evident that the two months leading up to the election will look at lot like July of last year, when DC was enmeshed in the heated battle over the debt ceiling. It will also be a propitious time for Republicans to grow a spine.
We rarely get a second chance to do the right thing, but it looks like we will get another opportunity to stand strong and force transformational change in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. This time the stakes will be sky-high. All the Republicans who pledged to cut spending and fight against more debt, but failed miserably last year, will have one more opportunity to stand behind Cut, Cap, and Balance (CCB).
Last August, only 66 House Republicans, or 27% of the Republican Conference, voted against the debt ceiling deal. The rest voted to kill CCB. Just 19 Republican senators voted against this travesty. Ever since last August, many of the yea votes have been inveighing against the debt deal and complaining that they were dealt a bad hand. As primary challenges to these members begin to mount, they are stepping up their outrage over the debt. Well, it’s never too early to start repenting. In the likelihood that we will reach the debt ceiling before Obama’s term expires, how many of them are willing to commit to CCB or bust?