The Debt Ceiling Is Suddenly Only 8 Weeks Away

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Remember that debt limit donnybrook we were all expecting this December? Turns out everyone was being a wee bit too optimistic about that:

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew told Congress on Monday that after mid-October, the government would be able to make payments “with only the cash we have on hand on any given day.” In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), Mr. Lew projected the Treasury would have roughly $50 billion on hand by mid-October, and said this level “would be insufficient to cover net expenditures for an extended period of time.”

Mr. Lew also said that “on certain days, net expenditures could exceed such a cash balance,” which might mean the government couldn’t pay all its bills.

….The mid-October time frame is sooner than many on Capitol Hill had anticipated….Some believed that the government’s improving fiscal condition, bolstered by rising tax revenue and money coming in from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, could give the Treasury even more time, potentially until sometime in December.

Politically, this means that Republicans don’t really have the option of quickly passing a 2014 budget (or a short-term continuing resolution) and then taking some time off to plan for their latest round of debt ceiling hostage-taking at the end of the year. If mid-October really is the drop-dead date, it means that budget negotiations in late September and debt ceiling negotiations in early October pretty much run right into each other. It’s Fiscal Cliff v2.0.

I don’t quite know what this does to John Boehner’s fragile attempts to keep the lunatic wing of his party under control. Nothing good, probably. I’m also not sure what it does to President Obama’s promise not to negotiate over the debt ceiling. If all of this stuff get munged together, then everyone’s going to get mighty hazy mighty fast about what exactly is being negotiated.

So that’s that. Hazy is the new outlook. Stay tuned.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend