At the close of business, the federal government’s debt limit will increase by another $1.2 trillion, the final installment in a series of hikes that started last summer.

This last increase, from $15.194 trillion to $16.394 trillion, was essentially granted in the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011, passed August 2 at the culmination of the debt limit debate. Last week, the House rejected the debt limit increase in a resolution of disapproval, but the Senate blocked that legislation. The BCA states that unless both legislative bodies agree to reject the scheduled increase and no Presidential veto follows, then the increase will go into effect.

So this was expected. Yet now more than ever, Congress has work to do. It must make tough decisions to steer the nation in a new, fiscally responsible direction.

Though some question the value of debt ceiling votes, they are a useful exercise, as they force Congress to confront the consequences of reckless spending, which would be lost if the limit increased automatically. This check on the nation’s level of borrowing therefore serves an important, albeit painful, function.

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