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Debt Ceiling Vote
The New York Times splashed the debt ceiling vote
on A1 of its dead-tree edition on Sunday

It seems that everybody in Washington, D.C. is gearing up for The Next Big Fight: the debt limit vote. The big question: what concessions will Republicans extract for going along with an increase in the debt ceiling?

Today, the White House weighed in with its answer: none.

While Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner are signaling to support raising the debt ceiling -- if spending cuts and entitlement reform are attached -- Democrats say they want a clean debt-ceiling vote.

"We do not need to play chicken with our economy by linking the raising of the debt ceiling to anything," said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. "We should do that right away."

Carney says the consequences of failing to raise the debt ceiling would be catastrophic:

White House spokesman Jay Carney on Monday said the consequences of failing to raise the debt ceiling would be "Armageddon-like" for the country.

"We cannot play chicken with the economy in this way," Carney told reporters at a briefing. "It's just too darn risky. It's not appropriate."

The debt limit is a big deal because unless Congress raises it, the government will run out of money with which to operate. That would be worse than a shutdown of essential services—we simply wouldn't have enough money to fund even essential services. Worse, it would put the full faith and credit of the United States on the line, potentially setting off a worldwide financial panic.

Nonetheless, Republicans are threatening to deny a debt limit increase unless they get something in return. But that's a bluff, and it's good that the White House is calling them on it.

If Republicans were serious about treating this as negotiating leverage, they would need to offer a credible alternative to raising the debt limit. But they can't, thanks not only to the fact that they did not propose nor pass a balanced budget, but also to the fact that they have agreed to a budget that will add $1.6 trillion to the national debt.

They simply don't have nearly as much leverage as they did in the last round—and, as Nate Silver argues today, their leaders seem to know it.

It will probably be necessary to whip together some Democratic votes to pass the thing, because the GOP won't want to shoulder the burden by itself. There's ample precedent for that in divided government, even under Bush. But while the GOP did have some leverage on the budget bill, they really have none on the debt limit vote. And it would be a stupid mistake to pretend that they do. Fortunately, it's not a mistake the administration is making.


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