Unless you’re so bored with all of your homework that you’ve been watching CNN all day, we guess that you haven’t heard about the recent commotion on Capitol Hill.
On Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted to raise the debt ceiling. Then on Wednesday, the Senate also took action by approving the same measure. So just for you, we’ve summarized the basic facts so you can seem super prepared to participate in your next discussion.
What is the debt ceiling, and why is it a big deal?
The debt ceiling is a limit on the amount of national debt that can be accumulated by the U.S. government. Basically, Congress has approved raising the country’s borrowing limit with no conditions, meaning the government can raise this limit with no strings attached, and the government can borrow more money without hitting the limit.
What is it now?
The debt limit was raised from $16.7 trillion to $17.3 trillion.
Who supports this raise?
The vote was 221 to 201 in the House and 55 to 43 in the Senate, and in both cases, the vote in favor of the measure came mostly from the Democrats of Congress.
How did it pass?
While some Congress members didn’t want to raise the debt ceiling, there was no avoiding the issue of a potential debt default. A default would mean the government would fail to pay its debts. So Republican leaders in the Senate came together to scrounge up enough votes to help the measure go through.
What are the pros?
There’s one result of all this we think almost everyone can agree is a good thing: no filibuster! Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, threatened to filibuster to prevent a discussion that would lead to raising the debt ceiling. But the Senate Republicans failed to unite on the issue, so (thankfully) an exhausting, endless ramble was closely avoided. Another result is that there will (probably) be no debt default! With a raised debt ceiling, the government can go on borrowing without panicking over defaulting on huge piles of debt.
What happens next?
As most of us know from our School House Rock days, the measure will now go on to the White House. If the president signs the bill, the the government borrowing limit would raised until March 2015.
How will this affect us?
Since the government will be much less likely to default on its debts, it won’t default on other important government spending, like education! That means a more stable economy! (Or at least more stable than it would be if the debt ceiling wasn’t raised and the government had to default on its debts.) And while the Republicans have at it and Boehner sulks, we can stop stressing about a possible calamitous debt default and worry about our midterms and research papers. And, you know, more national debt.
How can I sound like I know what I’m talking about?
Want to sound politically savvy when chatting with your political science friends? Try saying things like, “At least we don’t have to sit through another filibuster!” or “This is just another irresponsible move by Congress that puts off the inevitable; the debt ceiling cannot increase exponentially. For real!” Basically, you want to sound pleased but not too enthusiastic about the debt ceiling raise, and surprised (in a kind of condescending way) that Congress managed to do something so quickly. But don’t forget to still sound exasperated over Congress’ constant bickering and inability to come together on something as major as preventing a debt catastrophe.