House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Tuesday that calling a vote on whether to raise the debt ceiling for a few months would run counter to Republicans’ goal of making big changes to the government’s spending habits.
“I don’t see how multiple votes on a debt-ceiling increase can help get us to where we want to go, which is we want big reforms, we want big spending cuts and a big change as to how this town works,” the Virginia Republican said at his weekly roundtable with reporters. “And to me, it is the case of having to make some tough decisions. I’m not so sure that if we can’t make the tough decisions now, why would we be making those tough decisions later?”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that it may be necessary to raise the debt limit for the short term if Vice President Biden and the six congressional negotiators working with him, including Cantor, are unable to hammer out a comprehensive deficit-reduction plan this summer.
Cantor’s remarks echoed those of other House Republican leaders who have said they want to achieve the greatest deficit savings possible, ultimately saving $4 trillion over the next 10 years. The White House has laid out a similar goal but calls for a mix of spending cuts and revenue increases, which Republicans oppose.
That was a point Cantor emphasized Tuesday, addressing reporters half an hour before the Biden group was set to hold its ninth meeting at the Capitol.
“In my assessment, it’s crunch time in those meetings,” Cantor said of the negotiations. “We have hit the point at which we are really talking about big numbers, and everything, as I’ve said before, is on the table, except tax increases. That includes Medicare, Medicaid and the other mandatory as well as discretionary spending.”
Some Republicans have been ratcheting up the pressure on leaders to agree to a sweeping deficit-reduction plan. On Wednesday, a group of eight conservative members of Congress is holding a news conference to urge lawmakers and candidates to pledge not to raise the debt limit without an agreement on substantial spending cuts, enforceable spending caps and a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
A civil tone has marked the Biden group’s negotiations over the past several weeks, and Cantor praised the vice president again for his leadership in the talks. But he then criticized President Obama as unwilling to work with the other side.
“Frankly, I put the onus on the president,” Cantor said. “As you know, I have talked about the productive talks I’ve had with the vice president. But the president has not seemed willing to engage and say that he’s willing to do the tough stuff.”
Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) are expected to begin hammering out the final details of a deal once the Biden group has finished its work by a self-imposed July 1 deadline.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who on Tuesday referred to the long-sought measure to raise the debt ceiling as “the default prevention act,” told reporters that while his prefers to raise the debt limit up until Jan. 1, 2013, a temporary extension “is better than none.”