Bitter partisan brinkmanship has been the hallmark of debates over raising the debt ceiling in recent years, but there are signs that it could be less contentious this time around. Still, Congress needs to act fast to avoid a default. Here are three things you should know as things move forward:
-- Without a deal, the Treasury will officially run out of money on Feb. 27:
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew wrote to Congress on Friday, saying that in less than three weeks the Treasury will have a mere $50 billion left to spend. USA Today writes: "That sounds like a lot of money, but the government can spend as much as $60 billion a day — especially in February, when tax refunds alone can total $15 billion."
"Based on our best and most recent information ... we are not confident that the extraordinary measures will last beyond Thursday, February 27. ... At that point, Treasury would be left with only the cash on hand and any incoming revenue to meet our country's commitments."
-- The debate might not be as bitter this time around:
The Washington Post's Robert Costa and Ed O'Keefe report that many Republicans wanted to see the debt-ceiling increase linked to concessions in the health care law — the sort of demand almost guaranteed to seriously gum up the works:
"Others were talking about linking it to approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. Perhaps most strikingly, some conservatives seemed resigned to the idea that a 'clean' increase is inevitable.
"A clean increase — that is, one with no strings attached — is what President Obama has long demanded. And so far, there is no reason for him to budge from that position. None. Republicans have not formulated a counteroffer. And it's possible they may not even be able to coalesce around one, given the competing positions in the GOP Conference and the ticking clock."
-- A vote could come next week:
"House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Friday left a spot open in his weekly House floor schedule for 'possible consideration of the legislation related to the debt limit' on Wednesday, a sign that his party may be closing in on some conditions for an increase in the government's $17 trillion borrowing cap.
"Some Republican lawmakers and aides said possible conditions still under discussion include the elimination of military pension cuts approved in December and a provision known as the 'doc fix' to prevent a drop in payments to doctors under the Medicare healthcare program for the elderly.
"These would be a far cry from past Republican debt-limit demands for ambitious spending cuts and may be acceptable to many Democrats."