House To Vote Wednesday On (Mostly) Clean Debt Ceiling Increase

The latest round of debt ceiling drama will kick off Wednesday, when the House of Representatives plans to vote on the latest plan to increase the nation’s borrowing authority and avert economic catastrophe. But don’t expect the GOP to completely self-destruct the way it did in 2013. This time, there’s little doubt the bill will ultimately pass, and when it does, it will contain few, if any, unrelated policy provisions.

The working plan, which you can read here, is to tie the debt ceiling increase to a restoration of full military pensions, which would in turn be offset by a one-year extension of certain cuts in the sequester. Those pensions were scaled back as part of the bipartisan budget deal that Congress passed earlier this year, and there’s bipartisan support for repealing them, which would amount to around $7 billion in savings. But just in case that fails, Republicans have also prepared a clean debt ceiling bill as a fallback measure.

This is a far cry from last year, when House Republicans attempted unsuccessfully to make a debt ceiling increase contingent on the defunding of Obamacare.

Why the change in strategy? It’s not that the House GOP has become any saner than last year. It has not. Rather, House Speaker John Boehner and sidekick Eric Cantor have simply concluded that no debt ceiling bill will pass with only Republican support. This means they’ll have to rely on Democratic votes; having failed spectacularly to spook Democrats into caving to their debt ceiling demands last year, House leadership has decided to scale back their demands this time around.

However, there’s still a chance that the proposed bill won’t gain enough Democratic votes, thanks to the military pensions restoration. If that happens, House leadership will simply put a clean debt ceiling bill up for a vote, and the nation’s borrowing limit will be extended until March 2015, period.

Either way, one thing seems almost certain: Raising the debt ceiling will be much less stressful this year than last.

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