Duty of debt

The Hill says the Senate is reviewing a request to raise the debt ceiling above $12.1 trillion. Officials warned failure to do so would result in a default by mid-October. The Senate must vote on the measure openly, without recourse to technicalities like the "Gephardt rule", making it politically dangerous for the senators.

Now Obama is asking Congress to raise the debt ceiling, something lawmakers are almost certain to do despite misgivings about the federal debt. The ceiling already has been hiked three times in the past two years, and the House took action earlier this year to raise the ceiling to $13 trillion.

Congress has little choice. Failing to raise the cap could lead the nation to default in mid-October, when the debt is expected to exceed its limit, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said. In August, Geithner asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to increase the debt limit as soon as possible.

One hazard facing the Senate is the lack of the rule which would cloak voting on this measure in anonymity, leading some observers to fear the measure would be criticized by "partisan" political oppositionists.

When the House raised the debt limit to $13 trillion as part of a budget resolution approved in April, Democratic leaders used a maneuver known as the “Gephardt rule,” named after former House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt (Mo.), to avoid taking a roll call vote on the debt limit increase.

The Senate isn’t so lucky. It lacks a similar mechanism, meaning each senator must cast a politically perilous vote on raising the debt ceiling.

Despite these political perils, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana) appealed to his Republican colleagues to do their patriotic duty and raise the debt limit.

“Sen. Baucus understands the critical importance of signaling to the world that the U.S. maintains the confidence and security to continue to lead the global economy out of recession,” the Baucus aide said. “The request to raise the debt limit is serious and must be addressed thoroughly and in a nonpartisan manner.”

This statesman knew all about responsible debt.


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