President Obama would accept a short-term increase in the federal borrowing cap, rather than one lasting a year or more, a senior White House official said Monday. The statement was an acknowledgment by the administration that it may not be possible to reach a deal on a long-term increase in the debt ceiling before a critical Oct. 17 deadline.

Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, said members of Congress ultimately have the responsibility to decide how often they want to raise the debt ceiling, although he argued that an extended hike is preferable.

Sperling’s comments Monday suggested that the White House would accept such a measure. The statement was notable because administration officials had rejected a short-term debt ceiling increase during a similar impasse in the summer of 2011, when the White House insisted that the debt limit be increased to cover borrowing through 2012.

Now, with no election hanging over him, Obama has more flexibility. But it is not even clear whether Republicans would be able to pass a short-term bill. Aides to House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) say no debt-ceiling measure can pass the House without additional policy concessions by the Democrats.


I’m not sure exactly what Sperling is signaling here. Is he saying Wiggleroom would accept a short-term extension on GOP terms, to provide room to negotiate a longterm deal? Is he saying the White House would sign a stopgap, provided that ObamaCare was left untouched? Is he saying Wiggleroom has blinked on his no-negotiation stance? In other words, did Boehner call his bluff yesterday?

Further down in the story we get another quote from Sperling:

“He’s not going to sanction negotiations with any faction that are using the threat of default as a way of enacting policy in our democracy,” Sperling said. “The era of threatening default has to be over.”

Near as I can tell, there’s a measure of outreach, followed by a confused ambiguity, followed by intransigence.

At this point, does even Sperling know where his boss stands?


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