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Senate Doesn’t Have Enough Time to Increase Debt Limit By August 2

I think Nate Silver is basically correct that this debt limit debate is over, except for figuring out who has to endure the ritual humiliation in the end. But that does not mean that the debt limit will be increased before August 2. In fact, I think we’ve run out of time for that. The Parliamentary procedure of the Senate dictates that it will take several days to figure out a solution, and we’re not even going to see Senate action until Thursday night at the earliest:

In order to vote to end debate on a measure, a senator must file for cloture, and the rules require an “intervening day” for the request to “ripen.” In this case, the Senate is planning to use an existing measure already on the floor as a vehicle and attach the debt bill as an amendment.

Reid is expected to file for cloture on that motion to proceed to the “substitute amendment” Wednesday, a plan he’s expected to detail at a press conference Wednesday.

With an intervening day on Thursday, the Senate could have its first cloture vote — with a 60-vote threshold to end debate on the motion to proceed — on Friday.

Senate rules also require 30 hours between each step in the voting process, unless senators unanimously agree to waive the time. That delay would set up an up or down, majority vote on the amendment for Saturday.

And it doesn’t even look like that cloture vote will be successful, unless Reid can somehow sway 7 Republicans to his side. So we’re then moving into Friday without the process having started on the Senate side. Even if a compromise is hammered out over the weekend, there’s no chance it’ll go through without some Senator denying unanimous consent, forcing debate and a several-day process to get it done. So the debt limit is going to be reached. It’s possible, if there’s a deal in place, that a short-term clean increase would be put in as a stopgap. But through the regular process, there’s no chance to get it done in time.

Fortunately, the US found some extra change in the couch and can probably make it to August 10. But we’re actually not that close to a solution, with neither side willing to back down despite pushing extremely similar legislation.

Meanwhile, the markets are starting to react, both with the topline stats and a few early-warning signs.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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