The Debt Ceiling War Is Over ... For a Few Weeks

The Atlantic Wire

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, viewed as one of the hostage-takers in the upcoming debt ceiling fight, has given in and promised a three-month temporary debt limit increase.  Here's Cantor's promise:

"The first step to fixing this problem is to pass a budget that reduces spending. The House has done so, and will again. The Democratic Senate has not passed a budget in almost four years, which is unfair to hardworking taxpayers who expect more from their representatives. That ends this year.

Next week, we will authorize a three month temporary debt limit increase to give the Senate and House time to pass a budget. Furthermore, if the Senate or House fails to pass a budget in that time, Members of Congress will not be paid by the American people for failing to do their job. No budget, no pay.

Three months in real time puts us at around mid April for the next debt ceiling deadline. If, like a college student who promises to get that paper in if they can just have one more extension, that sounds like not much of a delay, you're not alone. In the world of the debt-ceiling and U.S. borrowing authority is more like a few weeks worth of delay since we'll be hitting our debt limit in the next few weeks. "The Treasury Department has said the U.S. will exceed its $16.4 trillion borrowing authority sometime from mid-February to early March," Bloomberg News' Roxana Tiron and James Rowley write today.

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That in mind, the big question is how good this extension is. Cantor's move had been hinted at for a while. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan mentioned it on Thursday"[C]eding the debt limit issue for a few months helps Republicans look 'reasonable' while forcing Democrats to either come to the negotiating table or be left holding the bag on a government shutdown or debt-limit debacle" an anonymous Republican lawmaker told National Journal's Chris Frates this morning, before Cantor's statement went out. Pressuring the Senate while reminding the public that the "Democratic Senate has not passed a budget in almost four years" sounds like Cantor making good on that promise to force Democrats to the negotiating table. 

RELATED: GOP Intensifies Demands for Votes to Raise the Debt Ceiling

And how are Democrats taking this and all this pressure? Well Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had the first backhanded compliment of the day and a friendly hostage reminder:

Reid spox: It is reassuring to see Republicans beginning to back off their threat to hold our economy hostage.

— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) January 18, 2013

Here's the full statement from Cantor:

It was great to spend time with all the members of our conference and their families. We heard some inspiring stories from some incredible people, like Erik Weihenmayer who was the first blind person to summit Mt. Everest.

We spent a great deal of time discussing how we can help restore a healthy economy and stop piling debt onto our children and grandchildren. It's common sense that we cannot afford to stay on the same borrowing and spending path we are on.

Fitch Ratings agency recently said, if the debt limit is raised without substantive deficit reduction, our nation's credit rating could be downgraded. The President's plan to simply borrow more money without any reform in Washington puts us all at risk.

The first step to fixing this problem is to pass a budget that reduces spending. The House has done so, and will again. The Democratic Senate has not passed a budget in almost four years, which is unfair to hardworking taxpayers who expect more from their representatives. That ends this year.

We must pay our bills and responsibly budget for our future. Next week, we will authorize a three month temporary debt limit increase to give the Senate and House time to pass a budget. Furthermore, if the Senate or House fails to pass a budget in that time, Members of Congress will not be paid by the American people for failing to do their job. No budget, no pay.

This is the first step to get on the right track, reduce our deficit and get focused on creating better living conditions for our families and children. It's time to come together and get to work.

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