President Obama is delaying his request for another $1.2 trillion increase in the nation's debt limit at the request of congressional leaders.
It's basically because of a technicality.
The White House had been ready to ask for the increase Friday because the government is within $100 billion of exhausting its current borrowing authority. Congress would then have 15 days to reject the request, though Obama would veto any objections in order to ensure that the government does not default on its obligations.
But with Congress not due to return to Washington until mid-January, a bipartisan group of lawmakers asked Obama to delay his request so they would be in session during the entire 15-day period allowed for objections.
"The administration is in discussions with leaders in both houses to determine the best timing for submission of certification and any subsequent votes in the two houses," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday.
Kevin Smith, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said the House leadership preferred not having to call members back to Washington early to vote on the increase request, but would have done so if necessary.
A senior White House official said Obama will make his request within days. The Treasury Department will use accounting measures to ensure that the nation does not reach its debt limit before the $1.2 trillion increase is finalized, said the official, who requested anonymity because the person lacked authority to speak publicly.
The debt limit is the amount the government can borrow to finance its operations. It has soared because the government has run record deficits over the past decade. The borrowed money has helped pay for two wars, stimulate the nation's economy after the worst recession since the Great Depression and keep intact broad tax cuts initiated during the Bush administration.
Obama's request to increase the nation's borrowing authority would boost the debt limit to a record $16.4 trillion. The president and Congress agreed to raise it to that level in three steps as part of the August deal that was struck hours before a threatened government default.
Officials say the $1.2 trillion increase should be enough to allow the government to keep borrowing until the end of 2012, or just after the presidential election.
Congress agreed to raise the debt limit by $400 billion in August and by another $500 billion in September. House Republicans voted against the second increase, but failed to block it because the Senate approved it. The increases are scheduled to take effect unless both chambers vote against them.
The White House announced the delay in the debt limit request from Hawaii, where the president is on vacation.