About two years ago at this time, Congress and the White House were working on the details of a pretty enormous compromise: Republicans got an extension of all Bush-era tax rates and Democrats got an extension of jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed and a one-year payroll-tax cut for most workers. But there was a small catch.
Just as important as what was in the agreement is what was omitted: the White House and congressional Democrats did not include a debt-ceiling increase in the deal, perhaps hoping Republicans wouldn't be so reckless as to hold the nation hostage in 2011. We know how that turned out.
Two years later, Congress and the White House are once again having an interesting conversation about taxes, and once again there's the possibility of a deliberate, man-made debt-ceiling crisis on the horizon. Democrats don't intend to make the same mistake twice.
Implicitly responding to House Speaker John Boehner's warning to President Obama that raising the nation's debt ceiling will come with "a price," a top Senate Democrat said Tuesday that an increase in borrowing authority will have to be part of whatever package Congress and the White House settle on to avert automatic spending cuts and tax increases at the end of the year.
"I think honestly it's going to be closer to $4 trillion when it's all said and done, and I also think that the President isn't going to sign off on any agreement that doesn't include some certainty as to budgets, appropriations, dealing with our debt ceiling," said Senate Dem Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) after a policy speech at the liberal Center for American Progress. "We're not going to find ourselves at some big party celebrating in February and then turn around in March and have another doomsday scenario with the debt ceiling. We've got to get this done as one big package."
It's not just Durbin. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also said the debt ceiling must be included in any deal, and White House officials told representatives of major unions and progressive groups this morning that President Obama will also insist on a debt-limit increase as part of the fiscal talks -- and will not accept a separate fight on just this issue.