The Washington Post

After the ‘fiscal cliff’: When are the next battles in Congress?

The “fiscal cliff” debate may be over, but Congress’s battles are just beginning. In coming months, the new Congress that will take office Thursday will face a series of deadlines that will force lawmakers to confront the same issues they failed to resolve with Tuesday’s late night vote.

Around the end of February: Extraordinary measures put in place by the Treasury Department to extend the nation’s $16.4 trillion legal borrowing limit will be exhausted. Congress must agree to raise the debt ceiling or allow the nation to default on its spending obligations. Republicans have said they will insist on major spending concessions before they agree to raise the limit again, but President Obama has said he considers the action to be Congress’s fiduciary responsibility and he will not be drawn into such talks.

Beginning of March: Deep automatic spending cuts, split between the military and domestic programs, will take effect if there is no congressional action. Fear that the indiscriminate cuts could result in widespread layoffs and furloughs led Congress to agree to put them off for two months. Republicans want to replace the the $110 billion in cuts with more targeted spending reductions of at least equal size. Obama has said a package to replace the so-called “sequester” must be balanced between other spending cuts and new tax dollars.

March 27: A funding measure keeping the government operating expires. If Congress does not adopt a new bill, the government will shut down.

Rosalind Helderman is a political enterprise and investigations reporter for the Washington Post.

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