Understanding the Debt Ceiling Debate

Happy Wednesday! Congratulations to Erchana Murray-Bartlett, the 32-year-old Australian runner who recently set a world record by completing 150 marathons in 150 days. “It’s very exhausting, I’ll give you that,” she told reporters earlier this week.

She may also set a world record for the biggest understatement of all time.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Tuesday the Biden administration was imposing visa restrictions on 25 Belarusian officials for their roles in charging opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and other pro-democracy activists with treason. “These politically motivated trials are the latest examples of the Lukashenka regime’s efforts to intimidate and repress those who seek justice, respect for human rights, and a democratic Belarus,” Blinken said. Tsikhanouskaya is currently exiled in Lithuania.
  • Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite announced Tuesday the Justice Department is revising its Corporate Enforcement Policy to encourage more transparency and self-policing. In certain circumstances, according to Polite, companies that proactively disclose crimes to the Justice Department upon becoming aware of the misconduct will not face charges—or have their fines greatly reduced—if they cooperate fully with investigators and address the underlying problem.
  • The Federal Election Commission decided last week to dismiss a complaint brought by the Republican National Committee and other GOP campaign groups that alleged Gmail’s spam filter constituted “illegal, corporate in-kind contributions to the Biden campaign and Democrat[ic] candidates across the country.” Republicans cited a North Carolina State University study that found GOP campaign emails were sent to spam at a significantly higher rate than Democratic ones, but FEC officials found no evidence any disproportionate results were intentional and held that Google had “credibly supported its claim” that the spam filter exists for commercial purposes. As Sarah noted last year, Republican campaigns have a long history of overusing and sharing email lists, resulting in spam filters being triggered at a higher rate.
  • Republican Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana announced Tuesday he is running for the U.S. Senate, looking to fill the seat GOP Sen. Mike Braun will vacate when he retires to run for governor. Banks—a close ally of former President Donald Trump—is the first candidate to jump into the race, but former Gov. Mitch Daniels, Rep. Victoria Spartz, and former Rep. Trey Hollingsworth are also reported to be considering bids.
  • Also Tuesday, Ohio state Sen. Matt Dolan announced he is running to unseat Sen. Sherrod Brown, the Democratic incumbent, in 2024. Dolan—a Trump critic—ran in the Republican primary to succeed the retiring Sen. Rob Portman last year, finishing a close third behind now-Sen. JD Vance and former state treasurer Josh Mandel.

Return to Debt Ceiling Purgatory

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 10: U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen meets with colleagues. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Welcome, esteemed guests, to this year’s performance of the debt limit dance—a cherished congressional tradition wherein lawmakers wrangle over whether to allow the Treasury to take on enough debt to cover the spending Congress has already approved. 

The national debt has ballooned beyond 130 percent of our gross domestic product and is only projected to keep growing. With the Treasury soon to bump up against the $31.4 trillion borrowing limit established during the last performance of this dance in 2021, House Republicans—many of whom approved tax cuts and spending hikes during the Trump era with relatively little fanfare—have rediscovered their fiscal restraint, preemptively declaring any increase to the debt ceiling must be paired with spending cuts. Adopting such a stance was reportedly pivotal in Kevin McCarthy securing enough support to be elected speaker earlier this month.

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