Adding it to the defense bill would allow Democrats to argue that they voted for the measure to help troops in harm’s way — and downplay that their vote also expanded the limit for how much money the country can borrow.
The strategy has not yet been finalized, aides and senators said. The House already approved a debt limit increase of $925 billion — above the $12.1 trillion ceiling Congress approved as part of the economic stimulus package last February — but Democrats may seek to increase the limit further so they don’t have to revisit the politically treacherous issue until after the 2010 midterm elections.
As of Tuesday, the debt stood at $11.95 trillion, staring at senators amid a roiling health care debate in which critics have seized on the potential costs of the overhaul. Unlike those of the House, the Senate’s rules do not allow it to automatically increase the debt with its adoption of the annual budget resolution. That puts senators in a tough position politically. And if the Senate balks at the increase, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has warned that the slow economic recovery could collapse, as investors around the world would sharply lose confidence in America’s abilities to meet its credit obligations.
As the inevitable breach of the $12.1 trillion federal debt ceiling looms, with the official debt figure now at $11.95 trillion, Senate Democrats have started to ploy how to best pass the resolution without attracting much if any public attention. Yet, with this issue now actively on everyone's radar screen, it will be interesting to see just how this can be accomplished.