House Speaker John A. Boehner plans to demand deep cuts in government spending in exchange for raising the federal debt limit, setting the stage for another tense standoff with Democrats over the soaring national debt.
In remarks prepared for delivery Tuesday at the Peter G. Peterson fiscal summit, Boehner (R-Ohio) welcomes the next battle over the debt limit as an “action-forcing” opportunity to rein in government spending and said he will “again insist on my simple principle of cuts and reforms greater than the debt-limit increase.”
“This is the only avenue I see right now to force the elected leadership of this country to solve our structural fiscal imbalance,” Boehner says, according to highlights of the speech provided to the Post. “If that means we have to do a series of stop-gap measures, so be it. But that’s not the ideal. Let’s start solving the problem.”
Boehner first insisted on pairing a higher debt limit with spending cuts last spring, as Congress and President Obama headed into a bitter battle over the budget that took the nation to the brink of default. In the end, Obama and congressional Democrats met Boehner’s demand, agreeing to spending caps that will slice $1 trillion from agency budgets over the next 10 years. They also agreed to implement $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts over the next decade — split evenly between the Pentagon and domestic programs — if Congress failed to develop a more comprehensive strategy to reduce future borrowing.
A better deficit-reduction plan never materialized. Now, the first round of spending cuts is due to strike in January — just as the national debt is expected to be nearing the new limit of $16.4 trillion.
Republicans alarmed by the depth of cuts on tap for the Pentagon are scrambling to replace them, but Democrats say they will only agree to undo the defense cuts in exchange for higher taxes on the wealthy. Boehner’s remarks suggest that Republicans believe they have leverage, too, and that they are willing to resist a needed increase in the debt limit unless Democrats agree to far-reaching changes to federal health programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
Higher taxes, however, are still off the table, a Boehner aide said.
“We shouldn’t dread the debt limit,” Boehner will say Tuesday. “ We should welcome it. It’s an action-forcing event in a town that has become infamous for inaction.”