The US House of Representatives returns to business after a three-week break with a symbolic vote planned Wednesday rejectingPresident Barack Obama's request to raise the national debt ceiling.
As one of the first orders of business after returning to work Tuesday, the Republican-led chamber has planned a vote on a resolution expressing "disapproval" over the president's request to increase the debt ceiling -- currently fixed at a little more than 15 trillion dollars.
"Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that Congress disapproves of the president's exercise of authority to increase the debt limit," reads the text of the measure.
But unlike other recent battles over additional borrowing authority, Wednesday's window dressing-vote and does not carry with it the risk of federal default that loomed over the debt-ceiling debate last summer.
The measure would require the backing of the Democratic-run Senate and the signature of the president -- neither of which is deemed likely.
Obama on Thursday formally asked Congress to raise the debt limit, with just a little more than $100 billion wiggle-room remaining before the national credit card is overdrawn.
Still, Republicans have seized upon the request as an opportunity to heap new scorn on Obama, whom they have decried as a profligate spender and offer it as proof of why he must be voted out of office in November's presidential election.
"The president has come to Congress once again asking us to raise the nation's debt ceiling -- his administration's reckless spending having made that necessary," said Representative Randy Hultgren, a Republican lawmaker from Obama's home state of Illinois.
Wednesday's votes are expected to be the last on the debt ceiling until after November's presidential and congressional elections, but are unlikely silence the president's critics, who have seized upon his handling of a crippling recession and tepid recovery as central themes in the upcoming election campaigns.
Congress during the last round of negotiations with the White House agreed to raise what at the time was a $14.3 trillion debt limit by more than $2 trillion, in exchange for equivalent spending cuts in the federal budget.
Obama was to request the higher debt limit in three separate increments, however, and this is his final one. One round of cuts already has been made, and another is to go into effect within the next year.'
Congress also agreed to a series of votes on the requests that would force members to repeatedly go on record on the issue of additional debt authority -- a move that allows majority Republicans to flag their continued fierce disapproval of the president's economic policies.