Implicitly responding to House Speaker John Boehner's warning to President Obama that raising the nation's debt ceiling will come with "a price," a top Senate Democrat said Tuesday that an increase in borrowing authority will have to be part of whatever package Congress and the White House settle on to avert automatic spending cuts and tax increases at the end of the year.
"I think honestly it's going to be closer to $4 trillion when it's all said and done, and I also think that the President isn't going to sign off on any agreement that doesn't include some certainty as to budgets, appropriations, dealing with our debt ceiling," Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) said after a policy speech at the liberal Center for American Progress. "We're not going to find ourselves at some big party celebrating in February and then turn around in March and have another doomsday scenario with the debt ceiling. We've got to get this done as one big package."
The latest dustup over the debt limit isn't necessarily a harbinger of a new hostage fight over the country's creditworthiness. But it at least suggests that Boehner is using the need to raise the debt ceiling in the coming weeks to offset the leverage the expiring Bush tax cuts provides Obama.
The White House has insisted in the past that it won't enter new brinksmanship with Congressional Republicans even if the debt limit isn't raised as part of a bipartisan legislative package. But Democrats would clearly prefer to take that issue out of the equation as they negotiate a way to avoid automatic austerity in January -- and for now, Boehner won't let them.