Politics

January 23, 2013

US House passes debt limit extension

Andrew Taylor / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, talks to reporters after a long closed-door meeting on a strategy to deal with a potential debt crisis, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013. House Republicans have said that they will not agree to a long-term debt ceiling increase unless the Senate works with them to pass a budget deal. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

AP

But the White House weighed in Tuesday with a statement that the administration would not oppose the debt measure, even though Obama just last week dismissed incremental increases in the debt ceiling as harmful to the economy.

It also appeared virtually certain that Senate Democrats would accept the bill even though they would prefer a longer-term solution to the debt issue and believe that the "no budget, no pay" provision is silly.

While the measure permits an undetermined amount of additional borrowing through May 18, the actual date in which the government might be at risk of defaulting on its obligations would be several weeks later. That's because the government would retain the ability to juggle its books through what the Treasury Department calls "extraordinary measures."

With the debt battle averted, the next fight comes in March over across-the-board cuts that would pare $85 billion from this year's budget. They were delayed from Jan. 1 until March 1 and reduced by $24 billion by the recently enacted tax bill. Defense hawks are particularly upset, saying the Pentagon cuts would devastate military readiness and cause havoc in defense contracting. The cuts, called a sequester in Washington-speak, were never intended to take effect but were instead aimed at driving the two sides to a large budget bargain in order to avoid them.

But Republicans and Obama now appear on a collision course over how to replace the across-the-board cuts. Obama and his Democratic allies insist that additional revenues be part of the solution; Republicans say further tax increases are off the table after the 10-year, $600 billion-plus increase in taxes on wealthier earners forced upon Republicans by Obama earlier this month.

"We are not going to raise taxes on the American people," Boehner told reporters Tuesday.

According to the latest calculations, which account for the recent reduction of this year's sequester from $109 billion to $85 billion, the Pentagon now faces a 7.3 percent across-the-board cut, while domestic agency budgets would absorb a 5.1 percent cut. The calculations are not official but were released Tuesday by Richard Kogan, a budget expert with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities think tank.

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