Current News



McCarthy, Biden to meet in hopes of avoiding debt limit debacle

Paul M. Krawzak, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON — When Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., meets President Joe Biden on Wednesday to discuss the debt limit, there are some structural advantages in favor of emerging from the fight this summer without tanking financial markets that didn’t exist in 2011, a similar moment in U.S. political history.

The talks are starting with plenty of time to reach agreement before the Treasury Department’s supply of cash and accounting maneuvers runs out, possibly in June. When House Republicans and then-Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, took control in early 2011, they spent months battling the Obama administration and Democratic leaders over unfinished fiscal 2011 spending bills before even turning to the debt ceiling.

That debate over stopgap bills to avoid a partial government shutdown was occurring even as the Obama Treasury Department was warning of a debt limit breach by mid-May, in which bondholders and every beneficiary of government spending were at risk of missed payments.

Serious talks to resolve the debt ceiling standoff didn’t even begin until mid-April, though by that time Treasury had pushed its “x date” back to July, and ultimately to Aug. 2.

President Barack Obama met with House Republicans on June 1 to discuss the budget and debt limit, and he played golf with Boehner later in the month. But Obama and Boehner didn’t really get down to their own private negotiations until July, after negotiations led by then-Vice President Biden and then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., collapsed June 23.

The Obama-Boehner talks then faltered after Boehner couldn’t sell tax increases to his conference and Obama was hemmed in by a bipartisan Senate agreement that called for higher taxes than he’d agreed to with Boehner.


All the rage

Still, in early 2011, deficit-cutting was all the rage. Senior members of both parties were on board, including Obama, and the midterm elections turned in part on a backlash over spending increases that occurred both under Obama and the Democrats and during the George W. Bush administration. Boehner had some 40 additional GOP votes to work with than McCarthy and his razor-thin majority today.

Going into the debt limit talks, Republicans were emboldened by the April 2011 appropriations package that cut nondefense discretionary spending below the previous year.

Days after the spending bill cleared, House Republicans adopted an austere budget blueprint written by then-Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., envisioning sweeping changes to entitlement programs. They lost just four Republicans on the party-line vote — exactly the margin McCarthy has today — while still adopting the budget with about 20 votes to spare.


swipe to next page

©2023 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


blog comments powered by Disqus