Bloomberg News

Obama Will Delay Debt-Limit Increase Request, Official Says

January 11, 2012

(Updates with comments from Boehner spokesman in last paragraph.)

Dec. 30 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama, at the request of both houses of Congress, will delay a request to increase the U.S. debt limit by $1.2 trillion in order to accommodate lawmakers’ schedules, White House principal deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said today.

“The Budget Control Act provides that the president may submit a written certification to Congress when the debt, subject to limit, is within $100 billion of the debt limit,” Earnest told reporters in Honolulu, where Obama is vacationing with his family.

“The Treasury Department expects that the debt will be within $100 billion of the limit by the close of business today, and therefore we had anticipated submitting a certification to Congress later today,” he said. “However, we have been asked by bicameral leadership of Congress to delay certification in order to give both houses time to consider when votes may occur.”

Legislation approved in August after an impasse between Obama and the Republican-controlled House on raising the debt ceiling gives Congress 15 days to pass a joint resolution disapproving any increase in the limit. The president can veto such a measure and he would do so, if both chambers of Congress passed a disapproval resolution, said the official.

A disapproval resolution stands little chance of passing in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats.

Accounting Methods

The Treasury Department will rely on accounting maneuvers, similar to the ones employed during the year’s earlier dispute to ensure that the current $15.194 trillion limit isn’t breached. Obama will delay his request by days, not weeks, according to an administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Because Congress won’t be in session in the next 15 days, Obama agreed to the joint request from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, and House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican. The House of Representatives is scheduled to return on Jan. 17 and the Senate plans to reconvene on Jan. 23.

“The administration is in discussions with leaders in both houses to determine the best timing for submission of the certification and any subsequent votes in the two houses,” Earnest said.

Raised Twice

Since the Budget Control Act of 2011 was approved, the debt limit has been raised twice, by a total of $900 billion. When Obama makes his $1.2 trillion request, the limit would rise to $16.394 trillion, which the Treasury Department expects to fund the government until late 2012.

In the last certification vote, the House passed a resolution of disapproval while the Senate didn’t.

“Our members want to vote on the resolution of disapproval provided in the Budget Control Act,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Boehner. “It was our preference not to call members back early to do so,” Buck said, adding that the House leader “would have if the timing of the submission required it.”

--Editors: Don Frederick, Robin Meszoly

To contact the reporter on this story: Hans Nichols in Honolulu at hnichols2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net


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