News Column

Key House Republicans Open to Short-term Debt Ceiling Deal

Jan. 18, 2013
John Boehner

Republican lawmakers said Friday they will vote on a short-term deal to raise the nation's debt ceiling and avoid default, but will demand the Democratic-controlled Senate pass a budget with spending cuts before taking up a longer-term solution.

"Before there is any long-term debt limit increase, a budget should be passed that cuts spending," Speaker of the House John Boehner said at a retreat for Republican lawmakers in Virginia. "The Democratic-controlled Senate has failed to pass a budget for four years. That is a shameful run that needs to end, this year."

The Republicans would vote to raise the ceiling only until April on the condition that the Senate pass a budget with spending cuts, the Washington Post reported. If the sides fail to act, the plan would suspend salaries for members of Congress.

The debt limit must be raised beyond the current 16.4 trillion dollars by mid-February to continue financing the 1-trillion-dollar annual deficit, the Congressional Budget Office said.

Republicans in Congress have threatened to tie any increase in the debt ceiling to demands for spending cuts, after they were forced to give ground on tax increases in a showdown over the austerity measures known as the fiscal cliff earlier this month.

"We are going to pursue strategies that will obligate the Senate to finally join the House in confronting the government's spending problem," Boehner said.

"A long-term increase in the debt limit that is not preceded by meaningful and responsible reductions in government spending might avert a default, but it would also invite a downgrade of our nation's credit that damages our economy, hurts families and small businesses, and destroys jobs."

President Barack Obama earlier this month demanded Congress take action on the debt ceiling and not tie it to any conditions. On Friday his spokesman said Congress has only two options: "pay the bills they have racked up, or fail to do so and put our nation into default."

Senator Harry Reid, who leads the Democratic-controlled Senate, welcomed the Republicans "beginning to back off their threat to hold our economy hostage."

However he rejected using the move as a political bargaining chip.

"As President Obama has said, this issue is too important to middle class families' economic security to use as a ploy for collecting a ransom," he said. "We have an obligation to pay the bills we have already incurred - bills for which many House Republicans voted."

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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