Under the terms of the so-called Budget Control Act enacted last year, Mr. Obama is authorized to increase the debt limit by another $1.2 trillion. That would provide the U.S. Treasury with the authority it needs to run up additional debt through borrowing.
The president's notification starts a 15-day countdown clock during which time Congress may vote for a resolution of disapproval to raising the debt limit.
Even if such a measure were passed, however, Mr. Obama could veto the bill, confident that the opposition does not likely have the votes to override him.
A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner was quick to slam Mr. Obama for seeking to increase the debt limit again.
"Washington's mounting debt is a drag on our economic recovery, and this request is another reminder that the President has consistently punted on the tough choices needed to rein in the deficit and protect important programs for American seniors from going bankrupt," said Brendan Buck in a statement emailed to reporters.
All the notification to Congress does is provide presidential certification that the debt subject to limit is now within $100-billion of the limit "and that further borrowing is required to meet existing commitments."
Actually, the debt subject to limit is just $25 million short of the debt limit and has been for several days. The Treasury is taking steps to prevent the debt from crashing through the debt limit until the limit is increased.
Mr. Obama originally intended to send notification to Congress two weeks ago, but heeded a request from Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to delay the notice so members of Congress would not have to be called back to Washington before they were scheduled.
As of this writing, the debt subject to limit stands at $15,193,975,000,000 (that's more than $15 trillion.) And the debt limit holds at $15.194 trillion. Just $25 million separates the two figures.
When the debt limit is increased by $1.2 trillion to $16.394 trillion, Treasury experts expect it to meet U.S. government borrowing needs through the remainder of 2012, certainly past the November presidential elections. Mr. Obama insisted on that provision during the contentious negotiations last summer over raising the limit. He did not want another debt limit fight just weeks before voters decide if he gets a second term.