Debt Ceiling Stalemate Leads to Standstill in Washington, DC

“I think this passes,” Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio) said on Friday. He was referring to the revised-for-the-umpteenth time plan authored by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). After discussions late into the night on Thursday, Boehner decided to assuage the tea party faction within his House Republican caucus by agreeing to include in his plan to raise the debt ceiling a provision that states that both the House and Senate must pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to the United States constitution before the debt ceiling needs to be raised again in February 2012. Facing a mutiny among his troops, Boehner had no option other than to include this provision. The Boehner plan would only raise the debt ceiling immediately through February 2012, and then have another vote on the topic in an election year.

The House passed the Boehner plan around 6 PM EST on Friday, but the plan will assuredly die in the Senate, where each and every one of the 53 Democrats has pledged to vote against it. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) is advancing his own plan to raise the debt ceiling. There are strong doubts that Reid’s plan can even pass the Senate, let alone be voted on in the House.

So what will Congress send to President Obama for his signature by August 2, Tuesday? Or will the United States default? Is August 2 the actual date when the U.S. coffers run out of money, or is the real date a few days later? These are the questions that have been consuming Washington, DC, as almost all other political and policy activity has come to a standstill in this town. Even the routine, non-political work of government agencies is being impeded because they simply cannot plan for next week, not knowing whether they will have the funds and the authority to spend any money at all.

The nation waits on its representatives with bated breath.

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