John Boehner throws down gauntlet on debt limit fight

at 07:45 AM ET, 05/10/2011


House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) addresses the Economic Club of New York on Monday, May 9, 2011. (Kathy Willens - AP)
House Speaker John Boehner sought to define the terms of the coming Congressional debate over the debt limit — and the broader fight on spending — in a speech in New York City Monday night, taking a hard line against tax increases and insisting that cuts need to be in “trillions, not just billions”.

The centerpiece of Boehner’s speech, which was delivered at the Economic Club of New York, was a proposal that cuts to the federal budget must be larger than the amount the Obama Administration is proposing to increase the nation’s borrowing limit.

“Without significant spending cuts and reform to reduce our debt, there will be no debt limit increase,” Boehner said.

The speech, which comes just days before President Obama is scheduled to sit down with Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans to talk about a way forward on debt and spending issues, amounts to an attempt to re-focus the debate after a last week’s too-public debate over the future of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget — particularly as it relates to the significant changes proposed in Medicare.

Polling suggests that the looming debt fight is a genuine jump ball politically.

In an April Washington Post/ABC News survey, 42 percent said they trusted Obama more to handle the growing debt problem while 46 percent chose Republicans in Congress.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released last week painted a brighter picture for Obama on the budget with 50 percent saying they trusted him more to make “tough choices involved both in cutting programs to reduce the budget deficit and still maintaining needed federal programs”. But, that same poll showed 60 percent in opposition to raising the federal debt ceiling.

Combine that uncertainty among the general public with the political stakes of winning on debt and spending issues and the debt limit debate is shaping up as one of the most crucial fights heading into the 2012 campaign.

Boehner also could face political peril within his own party, however.  Many conservatives are unhappy with the 2011 budget deal Boehner cut with the White House earlier this year and any falling short of yesterday’s pledge on spending cuts would almost certainly further inflame the tea party wing of the GOP.

President Obama and his economic team have made the case that even discussing the possibility of not increasing the debt ceiling is irresponsible and could put the nation’s still-fragile economy in peril.

“He realizes now that raising the debt ceiling is so important to the health of this economy and the global economy that it is not a vote that, even when you are protesting an administration’s policies, you can play around with,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney last month.

Boehner sought to counter that line of attack in his speech, arguing that simply increasing the debt ceiling without cuts in excess of that increase would not only be “monumentally arrogant” and “massively irresponsible” but would also do the economy more harm than good.

“It wound send a signal to investors and entrepreneurs everywhere that America is still not serious about dealing with our spending addiction,” Boehner said.

Make no mistake: Boehner’s speech amounts to a throwing down of the gauntlet in the debt ceiling debate. How — and when — will the White House respond?

Majority of Republicans want third party: According to a new Gallup poll, 52% Republicans want a major third party to compete with Democrats and the GOP.

While a majority of Americans have wanted another party since 2006, this is the first time most Republicans have voiced that desire since Gallup began asking the question in 2003. Only 33% of Democrats currently want a third party. Unsurprisingly, 68 percent of independents are favor another option in terms of party choices.

Sixty percent of those who identify with the tea party movement want a third party. Altogether, 52 percent of Americans want a third choice.

Minnesota GOP offers redistricting plan: Minnesota Republicans have offered up a map that Democrats say guarantees redistricting will face a veto from the Democratic governor and end up in court. That’s how things have gone in the state for decades.

The GOP plan would create four strong Republican seats, three strong Democratic seats and one swing seat. It would mean that former state Sen. Tarryl Clark, who just announced her plans to move in order to run against Rep. Chip Cravaack on Sunday, would be able to stay in her old home. But she would also face a much tougher race.

Right now the state is evenly divided between Democratic and Republican representatives in the House.

FixBits:

Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) is urging Republicans to ditch his primary challenger, saying that state Treasurer Richard Mourdock will meet the same fate as 2010 flameouts Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell.

More than 25,000 people have cast early ballots in the West Virginia special gubernatorial election. The primary is this Saturday.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) will hold a hearing on the National Labor Relations Board complaint against Boeing, a major issue for her.

A restraining order against a 19-year-old Pennsylvania man accused of stalking former Alaska governor Sarah Palin has been extended for six months.

How does Aaron Schock’s shirtless Men’s Health cover play in Peoria, his home district? Rudy Lewis, Peoria County GOP chairman: “It probably wasn’t the best thing he could have done.”

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