House Rules Stack the Deck for Debt Ceiling Increase

The stakes are high and the House is raising the limit and calling the shots. No, we’re not talking Vegas – the casinos wish they were dealing with this kind of dough – this is Washington, baby and what happens in DC … affects us all. CQ reports (subscription required) that the House of Representatives will vote today on legislation passed by the Senate last week raising the debt limit to $14.3 trillion. Under rules that would make the shadiest pit boss blush, members will vote for a record $1.9 trillion increase without directly voting on it. The House Rules Committee approved a rule yesterday that takes advantage of arcane House procedures allowing the body to approve the increase merely by adopting the rule, without a separate roll call vote on the measure itself. It’s difficult to explain the reason for the maneuver except as a way to shield lawmakers from being held directly accountable for raising the debt limit as voters increasingly voice concerns about mounting federal debt.

In DC’s version of Hold’em, you don’t have to show your cards, but folding is no option here. The Treasury Department announced yesterday that, absent an increase, it will reach the limit by the end of the month. Failure to raise the debt ceiling would ultimately lead to default for the U.S. The Senate vote on the legislation had more than its share of blinds and bluffs, as the Bottom Line pointed out last week.