In his first post-election press conference in the Capitol on Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made no hard demands and went so far as to draw a contrast between Dems and President Bush, who made a large claim to an electoral mandate after a narrow re-election in 2004.
But he did make one thing abundantly clear. Democrats aren’t going to re-enter hostage-style negotiations with House Republicans over raising the debt ceiling when the time comes early next year.
“They tried it before — we’re going to shut down the government, we’re not going to raise the debt limit,” Reid told reporters. They want to go through that again? Fine. But we’re not going to be held subject to something that was done as a matter of fact in all previous administrations.”
For Congress, the most pressing matters of business are whether or how to avoid the automatic expiration of all the Bush tax cuts and the across the board spending cuts at the beginning of the year. The August 2011 deal that raised the debt limit did so just enough to get through the 2012 election. So shortly after the new Congress is sworn in, though, it will have to raise the debt limit, or once again risk defaulting on the country’s financial obligations to creditors and triggering a massive economic crisis.
Before the election, House Speaker John Boehner insisted he’d renew the debt limit brinksmanship by reiterating that Republicans would oppose any debt limit increase without concomitant cuts to federal spending programs. It remains to be seen whether that threat still stands.
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.