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What if Congress Doesn't Raise the Debt Ceiling?

January 17, 2013

What exactly will happen if Congress and the Obama administration don't reach an agreement to raise the debt ceiling by late February, when the Treasury Department will run out of money to pay federal bills? Nobody knows—and that's exactly what's so terrifying about it.

Some Republicans, led by Sen. John Cornyn, have tried to characterize the running up against the debt ceiling as a form of government shutdown similar to what happened during the Bill Clinton-Newt Gingrich appropriations disputes of the mid-'90s. In the Cornyn view, the only difference is that the shutdowns of the '90s only affected discretionary spending.

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