WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama on Thursday asked Congress to raise the government’s debt ceiling a further $1.2 trillion dollars to $16.4 trillion.
Obama’s move was largely a formality as it was expected under a deal reached with Republicans which ended a political showdown last year that had threatened to push the US government into default for the first time ever.
The president made the request in a formal written letter to the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Once the president requests a debt limit increase, Congress has 15 days to oppose it.
Congress agreed on July 31 to immediately increase the national debt by $400 billion, and then raise it in subsequent stages when necessary.
An increase can only be blocked if both the House of Representatives and the Senate pass measures opposing it.
Even if Congress were to disapprove a debt limit increase, Obama has the authority to veto any motion of disapproval.
Though Obama’s request is expected to be approved, it will likely spark some election year political rhetoric in Congress, among Republicans who accuse him of running up the government debt.
“Washington’s mounting debt is a drag on our economic recovery, and this request is another reminder that the President has consistently punted on the tough choices needed to rein in the deficit and protect important programs for American seniors from going bankrupt,” said Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner.
If opposition to the increase is unsuccessful, the limit to US borrowing, which has been heavily inflated by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, will be raised to around $16.4 trillion.
That is expected to put the issue to bed until late 2012. A new rise in the debt ceiling is not expected to be needed until after the general elections in November.
The House is due back in session on January 17, while senators are due back in Washington on January 23.