Democrats have generally reacted coolly to the three-month extension, which would take the debt limit issue off the table for several months but leave other choke points in place, including sharp, across-the-board spending cuts that would start to strike the Pentagon and domestic programs alike on March 1 and the possibility of a partial government shutdown with the expiration of a temporary budget measure on March 27.
But failing to meet those deadlines would have far less serious consequences than defaulting on U.S. obligations like payments to bondholders.
"We should not be doing this three months at a time. We should resolve these issues, and we should not be playing games with the debt ceiling," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.
Republicans hope the need to deal with issues like the across-the-board cuts will cause Democrats and Obama to agree to spending cuts. Obama vowed he would not bargain over the debt limit. If the debt cap is not raised, the government would default on its obligations by as early as Feb. 15, Treasury says.