Feels like the fight over the budget was just yesterday? Oh wait, it was and no one really came out on top. Luckily (or unluckily if you're a rational person) Democrats and Republicans will have another important issue to fight over in as little about five weeks. This time around, it's the debt ceiling.
The New York Times is reporting that before Republicans agree to raise the debt ceiling, which currently rests at $14.294 trillion, they're going to attempt to force Democrats to agree to bigger spending cuts than those called for in the budget. According to Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, the ceiling will be reached by May 16 at the latest. If the debt ceiling isn't raised the government could default on it's loans, leading to yet another financial crisis. The ceiling can only be raised by Congress. Lee Sachs, a former counselor to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, told The Wall Street Journal that a compromise will have to be reached because "the impact of failure would be catastrophic for years, if not decades."
Despite (and also, sort of, because) of the consequences of not raising the ceiling, Republicans will look for concessions for their votes to raise it. “We want to see real structural, cultural-type changes tied to this debt ceiling. We’re not interested in a one-off kind of savings, or anything small. There has got to be game-changing kinds of changes to get us to vote for it,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney, a first-term Republican from South Carolina told The Times. Mulvaney's comments were foreshadowed by Rep. Michele Bachmann's blog post yesterday that seemed to concede the fight over the budget while preparing for the next battle, "We should be playing 'big ball.' We should be fighting over trillions, not billions." Though there are surely Democrats willing to go head to head with the Republicans, Sen. Mark Warner said he doesn't think that would be the best approach. "If there's anything that we've got to learn from this, if we start with guns ablazing at each other, we're not going to be able to take on the real issue that confronts us," he said.
As loud as the fighting over the budget was, a fight over the debt ceiling will be even more important and hard fought. And once that's figured out, then there's next year's budget and at some point Democrats and Republicans are going to have to figure out some way to deal with the long term federal debt. In other words: the fighting's not even close to done yet.