So What’s Happening Today With the Debt Limit?

The big players – Geithner, Obama, Reid, etc – say it’s basically doomsday. The schedule in Congress does not really reflect this.

First, House Republicans and House Democrats are meeting in their caucuses. From what I know, the GOP meeting will touch on the “cut, cap, and balance” pledge, which most Republicans have now taken, and will feature a former Treasury department official. (I’m not sure who, which is too bad, because the identity and the philosophy of this person would matter.) After the meeting there’ll be another statement to the press from Boehner, Cantor, and Republican leaders. At 10:15 or so, a group of House conservatives will re-announce the “Priorities” Act, the latest of the Republican CYA efforts to prove that the government can keep working without a debt limit if it pays these, in order.

(1) Amounts necessary to carry out the authority of the Department of the Treasury provided in section 3123 of title 31, United States Code, to pay with legal tender the principal and interest on debt held by the public.(2) Such amounts as the Secretary of Defense (and the Secretary of Homeland Security in the case of the Coast Guard) determines to be necessary to continue to provide pay and allowances (without interruption) to members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, including reserve components thereof, who perform active service. (3) Such amounts as the President certifies to the Congress are necessary to carry out vital national security priorities. (4) Amounts necessary to carry out the authority of the Commissioner of Social Security to pay monthly old-age, survivors’, and disability insurance benefits under title II of the Social Security Act. (5) Amounts necessary to make payments under the Medicare program under title XVIII of the Social Security Act.

Around this time, the House will start meeting for votes, with the final votes expected by 1:30 p.m. At 2 p.m., the Senate will be in session; in the current schedule, they wrap up at 3:30 p.m. And no votes are planned. The action then moves, once again, to the White House. If it seems like Congress is always in the position of twiddling and waiting for a deal, well, it is.