Officials: Obama Will Ask to Raise Debt Ceiling This Week

But unlike the showdown last summer, experts say GOP can't risk the conflict again.

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Here we go again.

Treasury officials say President Obama plans to ask Congress for a $1.2 trillion bump in the debt ceiling by the end of the week as the nation's debt is expected to fall within $100 billion of the current borrowing limit.

But no need to scout out a bunker in Wyoming yet. Experts don't expect the President and Congress to lock horns like they did last summer over the same issue, mostly because Congress won't reconvene until later in January and the White House's request for more borrowing authority is in line with the deal struck in August to keep the U.S. government funded into 2013.

That agreement automatically ups the debt cap unless Congress votes to block an increase.

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The debt limit is the maximum amount the government can borrow to finance its operations. The latest increase will raise that limit to more than $16 trillion, which will allow the government to keep borrowing until the end of 2012, just after the presidential election.

Though some expect the ceiling to be increased without a peep, others aren't so sure Congressional Republicans will let Obama off so easily. Just take a look back at any number of down-to-the-wire square-offs between the two camps from the recent payroll tax and unemployment benefit extension to the president's now-defunct American Jobs Act.

"This may not be a simple walk in the park," says Greg Daco, economist at IHS Global Insight, a financial research firm. "In history it has been a procedural matter, but given the current mindset and climate in D.C., it could become somewhat of another fiasco."

The worst-case scenario would involve both the House and Senate rejecting the measure to increase the ceiling, President Obama vetoing the rejection, and the House and Senate then re-rejecting the measure by a 2/3rds majority.

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"In that case we would be in trouble," Daco says.

But with the Iowa primary coming up, GOP presidential hopefuls don't need any more bad press when it comes to their image as conflict mongers on Capitol Hill. That could keep the Republican bloc in check, at least until 2013 when the debt ceiling cap will come up again.

"Anything is possible, but I really don't see it playing out that way," Daco says. "If the Republicans go through the trouble of rejecting it just to prove their point, I don't know that that really helps them in terms of the presidential election. The public fairly disapproved of their handling of the payroll tax cut."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

mhandley@usnews.com

Twitter: @mmhandley