Part 2 of the Great Beltway Soap Opera promises to be quite entertaining. According to Reuters, even though the US desperately needs to get a debt ceiling resolution immediately (we are at a point when any debt auction could be the last, depending on how many refunds the Treasury has to issue at any given point), Republicans are resolved to "stretch out negotiations on raising the U.S. debt limit until July....Prolonging negotiations past mid-May when Washington will hit its debt limit could give Republicans more leverage to secure big spending cuts, but it could worry investors as the country runs up against a possible default. The Republicans said they would act before that happened." The only question is whether bond investors (no matter how deflationary attuned) will stay in bonds before any possible compromise. Of course, should yields surge as a result of political "instability" it will merely reinforce the continuation of an easing regime, especially since Goldman is now obviously in a faux-disinflationary regime (more thoughts on that imminently, together with how to trade the unwind of Goldman remaining "Top Trades for 2011" following purported Bill Dudley instructions). And if the debt ceiling debate is in any way comparable to the grotesque farce that was the $38.5 billion, pardon $14.7 billion spending cut, then America is certainly buggered.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House of Representatives, fired the opening shots in what is expected to be a bitter fight with the White House over increasing the U.S. borrowing limit to enable the country to keep paying its debts.
In a speech on Wednesday, President Barack Obama will lay out his vision for reducing U.S. deficits to a manageable level through tax increases, spending cuts and changes to expensive healthcare programs for the poor and elderly.
Republicans plan to pass a rival plan in the House this week that would lower top tax rates, further slash domestic spending and eventually cut benefits in government-run health programs.
"Tax increases are unacceptable and a nonstarter," House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement. "We don't have deficits because Americans are taxed too little, we have deficits because Washington spends too much."
McConnell and Cantor said separately that Congress would hold a vote sometime between those two dates.
"We anticipate that this debt ceiling issue will come before us between Memorial Day (May 30) and the Fourth of July," McConnell said.
Cantor said: "Treasury if I'm not mistaken has put forth a notice which says there is a window within which we have to act in order to avoid the eventual default of this country on its debt. And I believe that that outside deadline is early July."
Republicans see the debt limit vote as an opportunity to win further spending cuts, and say they will not support an increase without them. All 47 Republicans in the Senate have signed on to a measure that would amend the Constitution to require a balanced budget.
Some analysts were skeptical of the Republican strategy.
Once again, for the cheap seats:
Experts warn the country could eventually face a Greek-style debt crisis, and the International Monetary Fund urged the United States on Tuesday to outline credible measures to reduce deficits.
The government will run up against its current debt limit of $14.3 trillion by May 16, according to the Treasury Department. Without an increase, the country would default on its debt, roiling bond markets and pushing up interest rates for businesses and individuals.
The Treasury has said it can postpone the day of reckoning until July 8 by using a variety of measures.
Some so called expert opinions:
"I think that's the wrong thing to do," said Lou Brien, a market strategist with DRW Trading Group in Chicago. "It risks the perception of default, and I think right now the market is thinking that there will be more adults than that, but we will see how that plays out."
Mary Miller, Treasury's assistant secretary for financial markets, said it would be "highly disruptive" if Congress did not raise the debt limit before the current ceiling was reached in mid-May.
And tonight's trivia: name the speaker.
"The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.