Given the nature of debt ceiling politics lately, estimating when the federal government will start defaulting on obligations has become a common, multiple-times-a-year occurrence.
With President Obama's signature on Thursday morning, the nation went from the brink of default to having a least a little elbow room on the debt ceiling for a few months. The actual date on which the nation would default (the "X date") is uncertain given the question of whether extraordinary measures will be available, but the bill will at least prevent a breach of the debt ceiling through February 7.
After a few weeks of government shutdown and a nerve-wracking lead-up to hitting the debt ceiling, the Senate leadership announced today it had come to an agreement to resolve the current crisis. Under this deal the government would be funded through January 15 at the FY 2013 level of $986 billion and the debt ceiling would be suspended through February 7 (though extraordinary measures would extend the default date past then). The leaders have also agreed to set up a budget conference committee that would be instructed to report recommendations by December 13.
As the government shutdown continues into its 11th day, the two parties have just begun having serious negotiations about reopening the government and raising the debt limit to prevent a catastrophic default in the next week or so. According to press reports, Senate Republicans are seriously discussing a proposal that would deal with both.
In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) presents a possible down payment on the debt as a way out of the government shutdown/debt ceiling impasse. The deal would involve entitlement reforms that have some bipartisan support and tax reform.
About the entitlement reforms, he writes:
As we continue to approach the October 17 deadline when the Treasury Department estimates that extraordinary measures will be exhausted, leaving Treasury with a dangerously low cash balance to finance new government obligations, the bond market is getting more and more nervous about lawmakers' ability to avoid hitting the debt ceiling.
Congress already has its hands full with finding a fiscally-responsible solution for the expiration of the government funding bill at the end of the month, but another budget deadline is just around the corner.
Update: The Bipartisian Policy Center has created an interactive debt ceiling timeline, which can be found here.
The House is pressing forward this week on debt ceiling legislation that contains a few different moving parts. The bill would buy lawmakers some more time to deal with it but would not be a full solution to avoiding breaching the debt limit.
In short, the bill would do the following: