The Daft Draft: How Politics Drives Debt Limit Language
Debt Limit Increase
The BBA 2018 increases the debt limit in section 30301 by amending title 31 of the U.S. Code. The main element of the section is in section 30301(a) and simply turns off the debt limit for just over a year: “Section 3101(b) of title 31, United States Code, shall not apply for the period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act and ending on March 1, 2019.”
The rest of the section allows the debt to increase by whatever amount is necessary to keep the government operating and forbids the Treasury from excess borrowing to build up a reserve above “normal operating balances” to brace for the date when the “extension period” runs out.
This is a cumbersome oddity with the sole identifiable feature of avoiding putting a specific number on the amount of increase in the debt limit. The obviously political nature of the maneuver may have some benefit for those wishing to avoid talking points and campaign ads. As a purely technical drafting matter, it is an example of clever politics bringing on the daft draft.