Syria vote complicates U.S. fiscal debate; stop-gap more likely

Sun Sep 1, 2013 7:00pm EDT
 
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By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A vote in Congress over whether to launch U.S. attacks against Syria is expected to wreak collateral damage - leaving too little time on Capitol Hill to deal with fast-approaching fall deadlines to fund government agencies and raise the debt limit.

That increases the likelihood that U.S. lawmakers will agree to a short-term government funding measure to get them through the fall, postponing for another day any broader deal or big showdowns.

The House of Representatives had previously scheduled only nine legislative days in September after they return from summer recess on September 9, prompting analysts to view this as barely enough to pass government funding legislation in time to avoid a federal shutdown as the new fiscal year starts October 1.

But now much of that time is likely to be eaten up with a contentious debate over authorizing the use of military force to punish Syria, analysts say.

With Republicans and Democrats still deeply divided on how to shrink U.S. debt and federal deficits, the odds for a comprehensive agreement that replaces "sequester" spending cuts and lifts the debt ceiling have fallen dramatically.

"Syria has really scrambled an incredibly crowded calendar," said Chris Krueger, a political analyst with Guggenheim Securities in Washington. "I think you have to say that the chance of a short-term extension has increased."

The U.S. Treasury said last week that an increase in the $16.7 trillion federal borrowing limit will be needed by mid-October to ensure that the government can continue to meet its payment obligations.

Many House Republicans have pledged to use the need to increase the debt ceiling as leverage to demand cuts to federal benefits programs and for delays or the withholding of funds from "Obamacare," President Barack Obama's signature healthcare reforms.   Continued...

 
The United States Capitol Dome is seen before dawn in Washington March 22, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron