The debt ceiling is about paying the bills, not the deficit. However it is not uncommon for the party in control of Congress to try to use the debt ceiling as a tool to try to negotiate on budget priorities. That is what has been happening.
But at any time Congress can agree to pay the bills, and they will this time too. As Senator McConnell (R) noted this week, if the U.S. defaults, the American people would blame the party in control of Congress – the Republican party – and the “Republican brand” would be forever toxic. The leaders of the party can’t allow that to happen, and the are now looking for the exit.
From Lisa Mascaro and Kathleen Hennessey at the LA Times: House Republicans brace for compromise on debt
Republican leaders in the House have begun to prepare their troops for politically painful votes to raise the nation’s debt limit … Republican leaders orchestrated a series of public moves intended to soften the blow for conservatives. They agreed to give the House an opportunity to vote on two top conservative priorities: a so-called cut-cap-and-balance bill, which would order $111 billion in cuts in federal programs for 2012 and impose a cap on future spending, and a constitutional amendment that would require a balanced federal budget.
The Democratic leadership in the Senate is also expected to allow votes on one, and perhaps both, measures. Neither is expected to become law … Congress is likely to spend much of next week on those measures, then could take up a debt ceiling measure in the Senate toward the end of next week.
Ignore the votes this coming week. These bills will not pass the Senate, and no Republican or Democratic President would sign them anyway – they are just for show. The real votes start the following week, and the debt ceiling will be increased.
This is almost over.