WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama asked Congress Thursday for another $1.2 trillion increase in the nation's debt limit, a request that is largely a formality but which carries election-year implications.
It was the third and final such request the president was allowed under a deal the White House reached with lawmakers in August to prevent a government default.
Congress has 15 days to reject the president's request. Majority House Republicans, eager to criticize the president's spending policies, immediately announced they would hold a vote next week on a resolution of disapproval.
But such a resolution would not clear the Democratic-led Senate, and the White House says Obama would veto an objection, anyway, in order to avoid default.
Obama originally planned to make this request in December, but with Congress on vacation until mid-January, lawmakers asked the president to delay his request so they could vote on the matter when they returned.
"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 and protect important programs for American seniors from going bankrupt," said Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
The increase would boost the debt limit to $16.4 trillion, which should be enough to allow the government to keep borrowing until the end of 2012, or just after the presidential election.
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. In August, Congress and the administration agreed to raise the borrowing limit by $2.1 trillion in three steps. The deal was reached hours before a potential default on the nation's debt.
Congress agreed to raise the debt limit by $400 billion in August and by another $500 billion in September.