Senate Democratic leaders agree any budget deal to avoid large budget cuts and tax increases next year must include an increase in the country’s borrowing authority, to avoid a repeat of the damaging debt limit fight between the White House and Congress in the summer of 2011.
“We would be somewhat foolish to work out something on — stop things from going over the cliff, and then a month or six weeks later Republicans pull the same game they did before and say … unless this happens, we’re not going to increase the debt limit,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, echoing his assistant leader Dick Durbin, at a Capitol press briefing Tuesday. “I agree with the President, it has to be a package deal.”
President Obama hasn’t, in fact, conditioned agreeing to a budget deal on simultaneously increasing the debt limit. And the White House’s official position is that Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will have to raise it, whatever the context, without expecting that the administration will meet any of his demands for doing so.
But the question of where the debt ceiling falls into ongoing budget deliberations will be moot if those deliberations don’t yield an agreement by the end of the year. And Reid became the first party leader to publicly admit that the negotiations have been a letdown thus far.
“The problem — [the first White House meeting] was before Thanksgiving, after the election,” he told reporters, “and since that time there has been little progress with the Republicans, which is a disappointment.”
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.