President Obama requests $1.2 trillion debt hike over GOP objections

President Obama on Thursday made an official request that Congress raise the debt ceiling by $1.2 trillion over the objections of several House Republicans.

Obama’s formal notification gives both chambers 15 days to vote on whether to approve the hike. The House plans to vote on this request on Jan. 18, a spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said.

The United States reached the $15.194 trillion debt limit on Jan. 4, according to Treasury statements. Since that time, Treasury has employed the “extraordinary measure” of tapping into its Exchange Stabilization Fund to avoid exceeding the limit.

The White House agreed not to make an official request to raise the debt ceiling until now so that Congress could vote on the matter.

The boost will be the third and final increase to the ceiling under the debt-limit deal struck in August, and is intended to cover the government's borrowing through the 2012 elections. The summer deal states that the increase would be effective in 15 days without action by Congress.

The GOP House approved the debt-ceiling deal, but many Republicans have objected to the debt-ceiling hikes called for in that legislation.

Several House Republicans on Thursday intensely criticized the latest hike request, and the lower chamber is likely to vote to reject it.

But a rejection by House Republicans is highly unlikely to prevent the debt ceiling from being raised.

Under the summer deal, the $1.2 trillion hike can only be stopped if both the House and the Senate, where Democrats hold the majority, reject it.

The GOP-controlled House voted to disapprove a $500 billion increase to the debt ceiling the president requested in September, but a similar measure failed in the Senate.

Even if both chambers did disapprove the increase, Obama would have the power to veto an attempt to block it.

Still, the debt fight offers a chance for House Republicans, battered in December in a fight with Democrats over extending a payroll tax cut, to score political points against Obama.

“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," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), the vice chairman of the House Budget Committee and leading member of the Republican Study Committee, a conservative bloc of House lawmakers, said the need for another debt-limit boost was evidence of "failed leadership."

“New year, same president, same story — zero fiscal discipline,” he said in a statement released shortly after the president's formal request.

And GOP presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) used the president's own words against him. On his Twitter account, Paul quoted Obama, then an Illinois senator, criticizing the need to raise the debt limit under President George W. Bush.

“The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure,” he quoted Obama saying in 2006.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) fiercely opposed the pending increase, and even suggested that Republicans who backed the original debt-limit deal do not deserve any political cover by opposing the upcoming hike.

“Anyone who supported this deal back in August but then votes to oppose the debt limit increase this upcoming week should take no credit for standing against reckless spending,” he said in a statement. “The real opportunity to stand for fiscal responsibility was in August.”

Obama made his request in a letter to House and Senate leaders.


—Erik Wasson and Russell Berman contributed.

This story was posted at 3:12 p.m. and updated at 5:36 p.m.