Ryan: Republicans Eye Short-Term Debt-Ceiling Increase at Retreat

Photograph by Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images

Rep. Paul Ryan, left, and Rep. Pete Sessions, right, arrives for a House Republican Conference meeting.

The House’s Republicans, assembled at a retreat outside Williamsburg, Virginia, are discussing the “virtues” of passing a short-term increase in the federal debt limit.

So says Rep. Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman from Wisconsin.

“We are discussing the possible virtues of a short-term debt-limit extension so that we have a better chance of getting the Senate and White House involved in the discussion,” Ryan told reporters outside the private meetings.

President Barack Obama is insisting on an increase with no strings attached.

It’s not like they’ve never done this before.

The debt limit has been periodically raised since its creation in 1917, when Congress and President Woodrow Wilson authorized the Treasury to issue long-term securities to help finance entry into World War I. Since 1960, Congress has raised or revised the limit 79 times, including 49 times under Republican presidents, according to the Treasury Department, noting the U.S. never has defaulted on its obligations.

The last time Congress fought over raising the ceiling, Obama signed an increase on Aug. 2, 2011, the day that Treasury warned U.S. borrowing authority would expire. Standard & Poor’s cut the nation’s credit rating.

The bond market yawned, and hasn’t stirred this time either.

Yields on 10-year Treasury bonds, a benchmark for everything from mortgages to corporate borrowing costs, are down from more than 5 percent in 2007, before the financial crisis of 2008. They are yielding under 2 percent today.

The nation has never defaulted on its debt, the Treasury Department says.

Obama insists it isn’t about to start now — as Republicans talk about only a short-term extension of the borrowing authority.

Jim Rowley and Roxana Tiron contributed from the Republican retreat. 

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