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118th Congress Faces Looming Debt Ceiling and Funding Deadlines

  • January 13, 2023
Janet Yellen testifying

Today, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen notified Congress that the federal government is expected to reach its $31.4 trillion debt limit by Jan. 19, officially triggering the start of a potential standoff between House Republicans, the Democratic-controlled Senate, and the White House about how to increase the debt ceiling. (New York Times and Politico Playbook PM, Jan. 13)

Looming Standoff

  • Yellen wrote, “Failure to meet the government’s obligations would cause irreparable harm to the U.S. economy, the livelihoods of all Americans, and global financial stability.” (Yellen letter, Jan. 13)

  • Yellen noted that while the Treasury will take steps to preserve cash, the government may only be able to pay its financial obligations until early June. Treasury’s “extraordinary measures” could include halting pension fund contributions and prematurely redeeming federal bonds. (New York Times, Jan. 13 | Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, Oct. 28, 2022)

  • The 118th Congress will eventually need to raise the debt limit to avoid a first-ever national default and global recession. (Politico, Jan. 12)

  • Some Republicans have discussed achieving spending cuts by setting caps on discretionary government funding at FY 2022 levels. This approach would result in a cut of approximately $130 billion from current levels appropriated in the omnibus spending law enacted last month—a non-starter for Democrats. (The Hill, Jan. 10 | Roll Call,  Jan. 9 | Roundtable Weekly, Dec. 22)

  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) secured his new position as House Speaker on Jan. 7 by appeasing a small group of hardline Republican conservatives with concessions, which included unspecified spending cuts in exchange for raising the national debt ceiling. (Reuters, Jan. 7 and AP, Jan. 11)

  • White House officials are mounting an outreach campaign to freshman lawmakers and moderate Republicans in an attempt to attract enough votes to avoid a fiscal cliff vote over the debt ceiling. (Politico, Jan. 12)

Government Funding Deadline

Rep. French Hill

  • Another deadline on the financial horizon is Sept. 30, when funding for the federal fiscal year expires. A legislative standoff on spending priorities could lead policymakers to vote on a “Continuing Resolution (CR)” to fund the government programs at current levels or allow a partial government shutdown. (CQ, Dec. 29, 2022)
  • Rep. French Hill (R-AR), above, one of Speaker McCarthy's allies who helped negotiate with the hardline GOP faction, said Republicans were seeking to design an automatic trigger for a CR in the event that the Senate does not act on House spending proposals.

  • Hill said, "It would be a way for all members of Congress to say, look, we want to fund our government, we want to rein in spending. But if the Senate doesn't act in the right way, we've agreed on this CR that would be triggered by the lack of certain bills not being passed on Oct. 1." (CQ, Jan. 9)

Rep. Hill will address policymaking in the 118th Congress and capital markets during The Roundtable’s State of the Industry Business Meeting on Jan. 24 in Washington.

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