Back in August, Congress passed a deal to raise the nation's debt ceiling after a highly contentious debate between the two parties. Back then, the fight was over about a $2 trillion increase in spending. So imagine what might happen when Congress returns from vacation to find the president has asked for a $1.2 trillion increase in the limit.*
According to Reuters, that's exactly what Obama is getting ready to do:
The debt limit is projected to fall within $100 billion of the current cap by December 30. President Barack Obama is expected to ask for additional borrowing authority to increase the limit by $1.2 trillion.
Under the new budget, Congress can only vote to block the debt-ceiling extension with a disapproval resolution. Lawmakers have 15 days within receiving the request to vote down the debt limit increase.
The debt limit currently stands at $15.194 trillion and would increase to $16.394 trillion with the request.
Also of note: the supercommittee launched at the time of the debt deal that was tasked to find at least $1.2 trillion in cuts failed in late November. The minimum amount the committee was supposed cut spending by is, coincidentally, the same amount the president is set to ask Congress to increase the debt limit by. That means automatic cuts of that amount will begin in January 2013 -- a condition included in last summer's deal.
The national debt has soared because the government has run record annual deficits over the past decade. That has stoked intense partisan debate in Congress over spending and taxes. Polls show growing voter anger with the inability of both parties to reach solutions to the country's budget problems.
In late summer, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), an outspoken critic of the debt deal, said the agreement wouldn't end up cutting spending.
“In spite of what politicians on both sides are saying, this agreement does not cut any spending over 10 years. In fact, it increases discretionary spending by $830 billion," he said at the time.
"I voted against this agreement because it does nothing to address the real drivers of our debt. It eliminates no program, consolidates no duplicative programs, cuts no tax earmarks and reforms no entitlement program. The specter of default or a credit downgrade will still hang over our economy after this deal becomes law.”
It looks like he was right.
The Associated Press notes that the new $1.2 trillion increase is in line with the debt deal agreed to in August. Back then, the debt limit increase was to take part in three steps, and there have already been two increases. This would be the third. Still, that doesn't mean congressional Republicans are happy and won't try to stop it:
The Obama administration will ask Congress to raise the nation's borrowing limit by $1.2 trillion this week, marking the third and final increase from a deal negotiated over summer.
Congress has voted twice since then to raise the debt limit by $400 billion in August and by another $500 billion in September.
House Republicans voted against the second increase. But they failed to block it because the Senate approved it. The increases are scheduled to take effect unless both chambers vote against them.
This story has been updated with more information. The Associated Press contributed to this report.