The Fix: debt

The 42 times the debt ceiling has been raised since 1980, in one chart

Now that the House has passed a "clean" debt ceiling increase, it looks like only a matter of time before the Senate signs off and President Obama signs the bill ahead of the Feb. 27 deadline cited by the Treasury.

It would be Obama's sixth debt ceiling increase and the 43rd since 1980. Thanks to an awesome graphic from The Post's Pam Tobey and Darla Cameron, we can see each of the previous 42 instances, along with who was president at the time. Take a look:

Return of the debt ceiling battle: Coming soon to a Congress near you

Return of the debt ceiling battle: Coming soon to a Congress near you

Now that the Senate is on the verge of signing off on a bipartisan budget plan that has already cleared the House, we can wave goodbye to all the partisan fiscal battles that have become commonplace in Washington, right?

Nope.

Why? Because, the debt ceiling. Just ask Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), one of the two main architects of the budget deal that appears to set to pass.

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The five biggest takeaways this week from the budget and debt ceiling standoff

The five biggest takeaways this week from the budget and debt ceiling standoff

What a difference a week makes.

The government is no longer shut down and the nation is no longer at risk of defaulting on its obligations. Rewind to a week ago, and the picture looked very different, with Republicans and Democrats at an impasse over the budget and debt.

But Washington found its way out of the standoff at the 11th hour during a very revealing week that spoke volumes about the current state of politics. Below are five biggest things we learned from the fiscal battle that has came to an end -- for now, at least -- Wednesday night.

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The Republican Party: A collection of tribes with no leader

The Republican Party: A collection of tribes with no leader

If the standoff over the federal budget and debt ceiling have reinforced anything about politics, it’s this: Today’s Republican Party is an assemblage of tribes with no real leader.

This blunt reality largely explains why a federal government shutdown now in its 15th day rolls on, the risk of default grows more and more real each day, and with time running out, no one really knows what the way out of the fiscal mess will look like.

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The one PowerPoint slide every Member of Congress needs to see on the debt ceiling

The one PowerPoint slide every Member of Congress needs to see on the debt ceiling

We are now 8 days away from breaching the debt ceiling. The last time we came this close to not paying the nation's credit card was the summer of 2011 when talk of a grand bargain blew up amid a trading of blame that continues to this day.

As some Republicans insist the consequences of not raising the debt ceiling are being hyped by President Obama and his Administration, it's worth remembering what happened after the 2011 debt ceiling crisis.

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Why John Boehner might have no choice but 'unconditional surrender'

Why John Boehner might have no choice but 'unconditional surrender'

The biggest takeaway from President Obama's Tuesday press conference was confirmation that he would sit down and negotiate with Republicans if they passed short-term "clean" bills to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling.

"If they can't do it for a long time, do it for the period of time in which these negotiations are taking place," Obama said at the White House.

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Worried about the debt ceiling? Republicans aren't.

Worried about the debt ceiling? Republicans aren't.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has described Congress as "playing with fire" when it comes to the ongoing debate over whether to raise the debt ceiling. Goldman Sachs warns that not raising the debt limit could result in a "rapid downturn in economic activity if not reversed very quickly." The vast majority of economists use words like "recession" and "catastrophe" to explain the impact of breaching the debt ceiling later this month.

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John Boehner, back under pressure

John Boehner, back under pressure

After a week in Congress in which the focus was squarely on Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and his critics, the spotlight returns to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) at the beginning of a pivotal weekend that could decide whether the prospect of a government shutdown becomes a reality on Tuesday.

With the Senate poised to pass its own version of a continuing resolution to keep the government running Friday, the action will once again be in the House, where Boehner has at least three crucial decisions to make:

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A recent history of America’s debt ceiling, in one interactive graphic

Congress and the White House are facing a looming October deadline when the nation’s borrowing limit will be reached. As Republicans and Democrats jockey for position in the debt ceiling talks, it’s worth looking back at all the times the debt ceiling has been raised in recent decades.

Thanks to the fantastic Washington Post interactive graphic below (courtesy of Pam Tobey and and Darla Cameron) we can do just that. If lawmakers and the White House can reach an agreement to raise the debt ceiling this fall, it will be the 40th time the limit was raised since 1980.

What ‘The Big Lebowski’ tells us about the debt ceiling

Two numbers on the debt ceiling stand out in the new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The first is 43 -- the percentage of Americans who want Congress to “not raise the debt limit and let the government default on paying its bills and obligations.” The second is 73 -- the percentage of people who believe defaulting on bills and obligations would do “serious harm” to the U.S. economy.

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Public divided on raising debt limit, but sees serious fallout for economy

Big majorities of both Republicans and Democrats agree that failure to raise the federal debt ceiling would seriously hurt the economy. But the public is nonetheless divided along partisan lines over whether Congress should increase the borrowing limit, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

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Who is responsible for the sequester?

Who is responsible for the sequester?

So just who is responsible for the looming and drastic automatic spending cuts known as the "sequester"?

It depends on what the definition of the word "responsible" means.

Republicans have made a concerted effort this week to argue that the sequester belongs to President Obama.

In a brief floor speech Monday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called it "the president's sequester" (or some variant of that) a total of five times; the video posted by his office of the speech is titled "Replacing President Obama's ‘Sequester' "; and the speaker's office is out with another statement today on Obama's sequester delay proposal with the subject line "Speaker Boehner Statement on the President's Sequester."

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Washington's addiction to kicking the can down the road

Washington's addiction to kicking the can down the road

News just broke that President Obama will propose a short-term deal to again delay the steep automatic spending cuts (a.k.a. the "sequester") that are set to take effect at the end of this month. We here at The Fix thought this was a good opportunity to look back at something we wrote a couple weeks back about how these short-term extensions have become the new normal in Washington, as Congress continues to fail to reach agreement on anything close to a grand bargain on spending cuts. The following post was written when Congress agreed to suspend the debt ceiling for three months, but it has been updated to reflect Obama's new proposal.

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The debt ceiling, explained (VIDEO)

Want to know more about the debt ceiling? This great video from C.G.P. Grey explains it in less than four minutes:

(This is the same guy, by the way, who did the video explaining the difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England.)

Note that the video above makes a lot of points that President Obama has been making -- specifically, that Congress is responsible for its own budget and that extending the debt limit represents paying for bills that have already been racked up, rather than paving the way for more spending.

Republicans would argue that Obama and Senate Democrats haven't been willing to pursue a new budget -- one that would rein in the debt -- which leaves them to fight for spending cuts in other ways, including by using the debt ceiling.

But regardless, the video is well worth the watch.

Why Republicans have no incentive to compromise

Why Republicans have no incentive to compromise

We've written many times on this blog about the fact that Republicans in Congress have very little incentive to come to the middle on the big issues before the country.

And a new poll from the Pew Research Center says it all: Quite simply, it's because the GOP base demands principles over compromise.

According to the new national Pew survey, 50 percent of Americans would rather that their elected officials "make compromises with people they disagree with" rather than "stick to their positions" (44 percent).

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What the next two months will tell us about Congress

What the next two months will tell us about Congress

President Obama's decision to press forward with a comprehensive set of legislative proposals aimed at curbing gun violence adds a volatile element to what is already shaping up to be a decidedly unstable next few months in Congress.

Between now and mid-to-late March, Congress -- and the White House -- will be called on to deal with the following matters:

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Why Obama is not talking up a debt ceiling backup plan

Why Obama is not talking up a debt ceiling backup plan

Ideas about what President Obama might do if Congress doesn't act to raise the nation's debt limit have received increased attention lately.

But Obama's not having any of it; at least, not publicly.

During a Monday news conference at the White House, Obama ramped up pressure on Congress to act to raise the debt ceiling to prevent the country from failing to meet its spending obligations.

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Obama seeks to flip the script on debt ceiling

Obama seeks to flip the script on debt ceiling

The debt ceiling debate began in earnest Monday, with President Obama drawing a line in the sand at a White House press conference.

And as with the last major budget debate, Obama is attempting to do more than merely win the debate — he's first trying to change the terms of it altogether.

Rather than argue over whether the debt ceiling should be raised to authorize more borrowing, Obama is instead arguing that Congress is voting simply to pay the bills that it has already racked up — a semantic difference, perhaps, but a very important one at the same time.

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Trillion dollar coin: The new nuclear option

Trillion dollar coin: The new nuclear option

The trillion dollar coin is emerging as a surprisingly serious proposal by the political left to avoid the looming fight over the debt ceiling.

It's also the political equivalent of the nuclear option -- something that may be technically practical, but would lead to all kinds of unpredictable political fallout. So much so that it's very likely to remain in the realm of liberal fantasy.

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Mitch McConnell: The 'tax issue is behind us'

Mitch McConnell: The 'tax issue is behind us'

With looming deadlines on the nation's federal borrowing limit and delayed across-the-board budget cuts, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Sunday that discussions about new taxes are off the table in upcoming fiscal debate, and that reining in government spending must be the focal point.

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DNC faces cash shortfall on eve of 2012 election

DNC faces cash shortfall on eve of 2012 election

The Democratic National Committee had more debt than cash on hand when the general election started in September, a troubling fact few people have noticed to this point in the campaign.

We already knew that the Republican National Committee had more than 10 times as much cash as the DNC while the party’s were holding their conventions, but a closer look at the DNC’s August report shows it also took out $8 million in loans during that month — which means it had more debt ($11.8 million) than cash on hand ($7.1 million).

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Why is Mitt Romney borrowing $20 million?

Why is Mitt Romney borrowing $20 million?

Mitt Romney has a lot of money — both personally and for his campaign.

So why in the world would he need to borrow $20 million?

The answer lies in the complicated world of campaign finance, in which the rules limit how much money a candidate can accept from individual donors for both the primary election and the general election — and the money raised for each can only be spent in the corresponding election.

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Crossroads launches $7 million buy hitting Obama on debt

The GOP-aligned third party group Crossroads GPS is up with a new ad hitting President Obama for “growing our debt faster than our economy.”

The ad is the third of a $25 million ad blitz this month from the group, which is the issue advocacy arm of the American Crossroads super PAC.

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Why we’re headed for more debt limit brinksmanship

House Speaker John Boehner gave the political world a dose of deja vu on Tuesday when he said Republicans would again hold their ground when the debt limit again comes to a vote in 2013.

“We shouldn’t dread the debt limit,” Boehner said at the Peter G. Peterson Fiscal Summit. “We should welcome it. It’s an action-forcing event in a town that has become infamous for inaction.”

Boehner said that he would again seek budget cuts commensurate with the debt limit increase and resist tax hikes -- basically the same posture that Republicans took last time.

The comments may seem odd to some, given the backlash against Congress and politicians that resulted from the government’s near-default in 2011. They could also be geared toward the 2012 race, in which Republicans are seeking to make President Obama’s stewardship of the deficit and debt a major liability.

But there’s plenty of reason to believe that Boehner isn’t just blowing smoke and that, in fact, a similar battle could indeed play out next year (complete with the kind off brinksmanship we saw last time).

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The souring of the Obama-Boehner relationship

Less than two months ago, President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner were in secret conversations about a so-called “grand bargain” to address the country’s debt problems.


President Obama addresses a Joint Session of Congress inside the chamber of the House of Representatives on Capitol Hil in Washington earlier this month. ( REUTERS/Larry Downing)
Today the two men are engaged in an increasingly vitriolic public feud — a remarkable transformation that has mirrored the growing partisanship around the economy and debt and raised doubts about the government’s ability to solve the nation’s big problems.

While both sides insist there is nothing personal to the increasingly antagonistic relationship between the two, their public comments tell a very different story.

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President Obama’s delicate dance on Medicare

President Obama’s delicate dance on Medicare

House Democratic strategists make no secret of their belief that Medicare amounts to their political silver bullet in 2012.

The decision by the Republican controlled House to back and pass a plan authored by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan that would turn Medicare into a voucher system is regarded by many Democrats as a strategic error of colossal proportions.

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