The nation's attention has been captured by the bitter and so far unfruitful fiscal cliff negotiations between U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-OH, and U.S. President Barack Obama.
But this is a sideshow.
The real issue is Boehner's attempt to tie the U.S. debt ceiling to fiscal cliff deal making.
The United States is getting close to its borrowing limit. The U.S. debt ceiling must be increased if the United States government is to be able to borrow enough money to pay its bills.
As of Monday, Dec. 17, the U.S. government was about $63 billion shy of its borrowing limit, currently set at $16.394 trillion under the 2011 agreement that led to today's fiscal cliff negotiations. The government is likely to hit that limit by the end of this month.
Boehner has offered to extend the debt limit for a year in order to make a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff. But he wanted something huge in return.
"Any debt limit increase would require cuts and reforms of a greater amount," said Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck.
President Obama counter-offered asking for a deal that would raise the debt limit high enough so it would not be revisited until after the 2014 midterm elections. The GOP has yet to deliver a response.