The United States is scheduled to hit the debt ceiling again as early as December, setting up a showdown between House Republicans and the White House about not only raising the debt ceiling, but by how much. Last summer Congress and the White House faced the same issue and gave it a temporary resolution by slapping a bandaid on it. Now, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is already weighing in on this round of debt limit talks, saying the United States should eliminate the debt ceiling altogether.
On Bloomberg TV, “Political Capital” host Al Hunt asked Geithner if he believes “we ought to just eliminate the debt ceiling.”
“Oh, absolutely,” Geithner said.
“You do? Will you propose that?” Hunt asked.
Well, this is something only Congress can solve,” Geithner said. “Congress put it on itself. We’ve had 100 years of experience with it, and I think only once–last summer–did people decide to use it to threaten default on the American credit for the first time in history as a tool for political advantage. And that’s not a tenable strategy.”
Hunt then asked: “Is now the time to eliminate it?”
“It would have been time a long time ago to eliminate it,” Geithner said. “The sooner the better.”
As a reminder, this is what happened last time a deal was made on the debt ceiling in 2011:
The debt ceiling fight is over. The White House and congressional leaders have settled on a deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, enact immediate spending cuts and, our favorite part, create a super-commission designed to trim the federal budget further by the end of the year.
The political stakes for this fight were massive — and it produced a number of winners and losers.
Mitch McConnell: The Kentucky Republican was like the Mariano Rivera of the debt deal. He waited until the game was in its final moments, came onto the field and helped close things down (in a good way). McConnell was also a voice of reason and frankness for Republicans, making clear that default would be a huge political loser for the party. In the end, he got a deal the way he wanted one — with him at the center of negotiations.
Tea party: There were major questions coming into the 112th Congress about who would blink first — the largely establishment-aligned leaders of the new Republican House majority or the tea-party-aligned freshman members. We got our answer to that question late Thursday as House Speaker John Boehner was forced not only to postpone his compromise bill but ultimately to add conservative sweeteners to get the 217 votes he needed. (He got 218.) The tea party — inside and outside Congress — will almost certainly be emboldened by the result of this fight.
President Obama: The president needed a deal of some sort to prove that he was capable of making the government work — even if it took until the eleventh (and a half) hour to strike the compromise. Liberals are likely to be deeply unhappy about the nature of the deal, which includes no increases in taxes or revenue. But remember that Obama’s target constituency in 2012 is not his base but rather independent and moderate voters. And those fence-sitters love compromise in almost any form.
Congressional Budget Office: The CBO is largely the redoubt of fiscal policy nerds — and we say that with the greatest respect. But for the past week of negotiations, the CBO was a central player — particularly when Boehner’s proposal came in under its proposed savings. Now that a deal appears to be done, the CBO will return to its relative anonymity (until the next budget fight).
That super commission failed and is actually the reason why the fiscal cliff and sequestration are happening today.