The country's next fiscal crisis will come sooner than advertised.The good news is that everybody knows what President Obama's position is on the debt limit—that he won't negotiate with hostage takers—and that Republicans have repeatedly shown that when it comes down it, their ransom demands are nothing but bluffs.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Wednesday sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) warning that the country would likely exhaust the extraordinary measures used to stay beneath the debt limit by late February. In a previous letter to Boehner, Lew had projected the deadline might not be hit until early March.
"While this [new] forecast is subject to inherent variability, we do not foresee any reasonable scenario in which the extraordinary measures would last for an extended period of time," Lew wrote.
That means we have a pretty good idea how this is going to play out, but that having been said, it ain't over until it's over. It may be obvious that Republicans are eventually going to raise the debt limit, but until they do, there's always going to be a question mark about whether this time is the time they prove themselves to be as insane as they claim to be.
One thing that is absolutely certain is that there are clear majorities in both the House and Senate to raise the debt limit. The only way Republicans could block an increase is if they prevail upon House Speaker John Boehner to block a vote from coming to the floor as they did during the government shutdown. Given that Boehner has done everything he can to disown the shutdown and blame it on the lunatics in his caucus, that seems incredibly unlikely, but until Boehner actually steps up to the plate and acknowledges the inevitable, uncertainty will loom. The sooner he gets his act together, the quicker we can move on to more important things.