GOP: Cuts Must Be Part of Debt Talks
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama, meet Congressman Michael Burgess.
The president says he absolutely will not let Republicans threaten a national debt ceiling crisis as a way to extract deeper federal spending cuts.
“It’s the most preposterous thing I’ve ever heard,” the Texas Republican says. “He’s going to have to negotiate.”
Both sides may be bluffing, of course. They may reach an agreement before the debt-limit matter becomes a crisis in March, or possibly late February.
Locally, Republican members of Congress indicate they will press for more spending cuts before voting to allow the nation to borrow more money.
“With $16 trillion in debt, we can’t just continue business as usual in Washington,” said Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va. “Congress needs to take every available opportunity to achieve spending reductions and reforms that put us on a sustainable path.”
“The president cannot ask for more revenues or to raise the debt ceiling without agreeing to significant spending cuts,” added Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. “We have to get our debt under control, and we need to do it now.”
The tough talk suggests this year’s political fight could be even nastier and more nerve-grating than the recent “fiscal cliff” showdown, or the July 2011 brinkmanship that triggered the first-ever ratings downgrade of the nation’s credit-worthiness.
Asked about the White House’s apparent assumption that Republicans will back down, Burgess said: “I’m not going to foreclose on anything, but that’s just not going to happen.”
He is hardly alone.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., repeatedly declined to say he would rule out a government shutdown, prompted by a debt-ceiling impasse, in the effort to force Obama to swallow large spending cuts. “It’s a shame that we have to use whatever leverage we have in Congress” to force the White House to negotiate, he said.
In fact, congressional Republicans of all stripes say Obama has no choice but to accept spending cuts they want in exchange for a hike in the debt ceiling, which will reach its limit in about two months. Said McConnell: “We simply cannot increase the nation’s borrowing limit without committing to long-overdue reforms to spending programs that are the very cause of our debt.”
Obama says he’s willing to discuss spending cuts in some programs. But that discussion, he says, must not be tied to GOP threats to keep the government from borrowing the money it needs to keep paying its bills, including interest on foreign-held debt.
“I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they have already racked up through the laws that they passed,” the president said last week. “If Congress refuses to give the United States government the ability to pay these bills on time, the consequences for the entire global economy would be catastrophic.”
Republican lawmakers spoke dismissively of Obama’s challenge in interviews last week. Several laughed out loud at the president’s remarks.
“He’s out of his mind,” said Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz. If Obama thinks Republicans will back off their demands, Franks said, he is “operating in his usual cloud of delusion.”