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WH Delays Debt Limit Request so Members Can Oppose It

At the request of House and Senate leaders, President Barack Obama today delayed an official appeal to raise the debt ceiling by $1.2 trillion to make time for Congress to return from recess.

Obama will likely make the official request next week, commencing a political exercise that will allow the debt limit to be increased but provide lawmakers a chance to oppose it. It is widely seen as a way to provide opponents of the debt limit increase with a political show vote that appears set up to ensure that they cannot actually prevent a debt limit increase this year.

The maneuver, laid out in the August compromise to raise the debt ceiling, requires the president to submit written certification to Congress that the debt is within $100 billion of the limit. The limit will be automatically increased 15 calendar days after the request unless Congress enacts a resolution of disapproval that the president can veto.

“House leadership has received assurances from the White House that the request isn’t going to be sent up this week,” a House leadership aide said.

In an emailed statement, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, “The Budget Control Act (BCA) 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. Under the statute, the President may submit this certification at any point after the debt comes within $100 billion of the limit. As indicated on Tuesday, 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, pursuant to the BCA. 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 given the current Congressional schedule. The President has agreed to Congress’ request to delay submission of the certification, which he has flexibility to do under the BCA. 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.”

House GOP Leaders already have planned to bring the chamber back into session Jan. 17, so the White House delay will allow them to keep to their original schedule, rather than calling Members back earlier.

“Once the President submits a written certification to Congress, we will be able to determine an appropriate timeline for the House’s legislative response,” according to a note sent to Members by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). “However, we do not expect the 15 days to expire prior to the start of the Second Session of the 112th Congress. Therefore, legislative action will not occur until Tuesday, January 17th, at the earliest.”

Even if both chambers pass the resolution, the president can veto it. Congress can override the veto with a two-thirds supermajority vote in both chambers, but that scenario is seen as highly unlikely because the resolution is not expected to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate.

“I think it’ll pass the House. It won’t get anywhere in the Senate,” Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) acknowledged in an interview. But even if it does make it to the president’s desk, he added, “if it gets vetoed, it gets vetoed.”

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