Mark mid-October on your calendars, folks. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced on Monday that the government's borrowing ability will max out at that point — meaning that the date is the opening bell of The Great Debt Ceiling Fight, Part Two.
This was not an unexpected announcement. Earlier this summer, the Department of the Treasury set the end of September as the likely point at which it would need an increase in its borrowing authority; the new announcement simply clarifies the timeframe. Nor have congressional Republicans been waiting idly for the day to arrive. There are already a slew of policy proposals that may be introduced as potential points of negotiation by conservatives. (We outlined that list last weekend; it is lengthy.)
The last major fight over the debt ceiling, you may recall, was in 2011. It was the first time that the normally routine vote became contentious, as Republicans took advantage of the fact that the aesthetics of raising the government's ability to borrow money played into their anti-government-spending rhetoric. Again: The increased debt ceiling in now way curtails Congress' ability to spend money. Instead, it is the most that the government can borrow in order to pay the bills it has accrued. It's not a credit card limit, it's a limit on how much you might ask from the bank if you needed to pay off your credit cards.