York predicts game of chicken over debt ceiling

Byron York‘s latest Washington Examiner article explores the likely political maneuvering over the next congressional vote to raise the federal debt ceiling.

Given all the maneuvering, you might think a debt-limit showdown is coming soon. It’s not. Lawmakers, who are currently enjoying a two-week Easter recess, have plenty of time before they are required to act.

Two weeks ago, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner sent a letter to congressional leaders with his best estimate of when the United States will actually hit the $14.3 trillion limit on its borrowing ability. It will happen in mid-May, Geithner told Congress, but the Treasury Department can take “certain extraordinary measures” to put the deadline off a little longer. Geithner said there will be “no headroom to borrow” left by July 8.

Maybe Geithner was trying to prod lawmakers to act quickly, but when Hill politicos read that, they immediately thought: We have loads of time. “It doesn’t hafta hafta be done until July 8,” says one GOP Senate source. “We’ve got all of May and all of June.” Remember, the last crisis, averting a government shutdown, was literally settled at the 11th hour on the day the government was to have closed.

That’s why Geithner took to the talk shows on Sunday to argue that there can’t be shutdown-style brinksmanship this time. “If you take it too close to the edge, then people will start to wonder, really, what are we doing, what are we thinking,” Geithner told ABC.

The treasury secretary is unlikely to get his wish. Both sides are so far apart, and feel they have so much time, that it’s impossible to imagine the issue being resolved before the end of June, or maybe early July.

Jonah Goldberg offered his thoughts about the debt ceiling vote during an interview last week with CarolinaJournal.tv.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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