December 3 is the date in Washington’s mind. This is when the federal government funding runs out. And, this is the new date for the United States to default on its credit after a Senate vote to raise the debt ceiling.
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
It’s October 9th, but December 3rd is a day to watch. That’s when federal government funding runs out and the United States will likely hit its debt ceiling after a Senate vote this week to temporarily lift it. And also, trillions of dollars at stake as infrastructure talks drag on. Ron Elving from NPR joins us. Ron, thank you very much for being with us.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: It’s good to be with you, Scott.
SIMON: Ron, I remember when raising the debt ceiling was kind of a procedural matter. And now it looks like, oh, I remember rotary phones. It has become very controversial, hasn’t it?
ELVING: Yes. Like so much in Washington these days, what was once a formality is now a crisis in its own right. Congress has raised or suspended this cap 100 times since it was first imposed in 1917. It has done so three times under former President Trump. But it’s still there in the toolkit. And when you combine that with the weapon of obstruction, which some minority parties are willing to use on something like that, it’s a way for the minority to hang up – take hostages, if you will.
So, whoever is in power, it must raise this limit. There is no choice. The expenses to be covered here have already occurred. So you raise or suspend, otherwise Social Security checks will rebound, and this government’s maturing bonds will be dishonored. So with our whole history of partisan bickering, Scott, the United States has never failed, not even once. But in recent years we’ve been on the brink at least a few times. And this week was one of them. December 3 may be another.
SIMON: It’s not the only cliff that Congress faces, is it?
ELVING: It seems like we’re having more and more cliffs all the time. I have at least four of them right now. The federal fiscal year ended 10 days ago. We needed an interim financing bill to prevent a shutdown. It was a. It’s also the December 3 deadline. Then this week’s debt ceiling vote. Then the House-Senate showdown over budget reconciliation – that’s where the trillions of dollars come in. And then finally, if all else goes well, there should be approval of this bipartisan deal on. roads and bridges – physical infrastructure.
ELVING: That’s the problem you like, Scott. But at this point, it feels like dessert after finishing a hearty three-course tax compromise meal.
SIMON: All the infrastructure and budget talk goes on – a lot of attention to centrist Democrats pushing back some of President Biden’s signing proposals. What do you think could end up being rejected?
ELVING: They probably won’t be able to improve Medicare benefits as much as they would like. Bernie Sanders, the chairman of the budget committee, would particularly like to do so. They might not be able to guarantee federal paid leave for people who have babies or for people who have a sick child at home, a sick parent to care for, paid family and medical leave law. And there are a number of other things that may be subject to a haircut, or they may just wipe out entire benefits that they are considering at this point, and they will likely have to cut some of the tax measures just to keep. some of those Democrats on board who don’t want to raise taxes on certain categories.
SIMON: Yesterday’s jobs report was a lot weaker – a lot lower number of jobs created than some had expected. I guess you don’t think that tells the whole story, though.
ELVING: No. Certainly not the report that everyone wanted. Less than 200,000 new jobs is less than half of what was expected – the lowest numbers of the year, in fact. But job growth continues. There is a pretty obvious culprit, which was the delta variant push of about a month ago. And overall, the report showed that we are down below 5% unemployment. It was quite a number. And it has improved a lot, dropping back below 5%, in just 17 months after the trough of the COVID recession of 2020. So compare that to the more than 70 months it took to reach the same level of recovery after that. the 2008-2009 recession.
SIMON: Finally, President Trump – former President Trump says he wants to invoke executive privilege to keep records of a House committee investigating the January insurgency. Can he?
ELVING: He can try, but he’s no longer president. This makes his request rather questionable in the eyes of many. And even further is his claim for executive privilege for Steve Bannon, a former staff member he had laid off years before the insurgency. Bannon’s claim won’t strengthen Trump’s other claims of privilege, but it’s now one more question for the courts to decide.
SIMON: Ron Elving, thank you very much.
ELVING: Thanks, Scott.
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