With the debt limit fast approaching, some sort of deal is on the horizon. Last week a 6-week debt ceiling increase, as well as a 6-week continuing resolution, which would open the U.S. government, was thought to have been in the works since little to no one would have the stomach to risk default and the economic impacts of that. However, that deal fell through.
Now, details of a new deal are beginning to emerge, and today appears to be the “do or die” time if we want to avoid further economic calamity. This is expected to be announced shortly following closed door meetings of the parties where leaders will outline the plan and try to build support. Of course, as demonstrated by the last few weeks, passage is not at all guaranteed but it is possible that the end may very well be in sight! Here are the ultra-high points of the deal:
1. CR that funds the government at current fiscal 2013 levels through Jan. 15, 2014, which would fund the government for roughly three months at the post-sequestration funding level of $986 billion.
2. Increase in the debt limit, thereby raising the ceiling enough to allow the government to borrow to around Feb. 7, 2014.
3. Requirement that there is a House/Senate conference on the budget to determine funding levels, with a plan to emerge no later than Dec. 15, 2013.
4. Some details on the Affordable Care Act relating to auditing to ensure people are not abusing the system, and some sort of delay in the “reinsurance tax” assessed through the ACA. Of note, no individual delay has been mentioned and talk of removing the medical device tax is non-existent.
The funding through Jan. 15, 2014 is not an accident. That is the date that year two of sequestration is set to kick-in, therefore this deal puts a huge focus back on the effects of sequestration. Thus, the debate in Congress will shift away from the ACA and back to spending limits.
If all goes as planned, scientists can begin focusing their attention onto sequestration battles. ASBMB began laying the groundwork today calling on members and their colleagues, friends, and family to send letters to the editors of their local papers. Away we go!
Extra Reading: For a detailed timeline of the recent events, click here.
UPDATE: The Senate bill contains language that would solve the debt limit issue for good. Termed the McConnell rule, Congress would have to take a proactive vote to prevent the debt limit from increasing as opposed to the current system of constantly voting to raise it. Should this pass, this means the debt limit will almost never be used as a bargaining chip again.