Lawmakers in both parties are urging President Obama to offer a detailed plan for curbing the national debt in the speech he is to deliver Wednesday, warning that they will not authorize fresh borrowing unless he agrees to mandatory restraints on future spending.
With the debt nudging closer to the legal limit — set at $14.3 trillion — anxiety is running high on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers are reluctant to approve legislation that would permit the debt to rise or to face the potentially devastating economic consequences if the government were to stop borrowing and default on its obligations.
April 12 (Bloomberg) -- William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former domestic-policy adviser to President Bill Clinton, talks about the looming battle between congressional lawmakers over raising the U.S. debt ceiling. Galston also discusses the outlook for President Barack Obama's speech on the budget tomorrow. He speaks with Mark Crumpton on Bloomberg Television's "Bottom Line." (Source: Bloomberg)
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Just to see the nation through next year, lawmakers would have to raise the limit by nearly $2.2 trillion under the spending plan Obama submitted to Congress in February, according to congressional budget analysts. Even the austere blueprint that House Republicans plan to approve this week would require about $1.9 trillion in fresh debt by October 2012 — a month before the next presidential election.
Republicans and Democrats alike said Tuesday that failing to raise the debt limit would invite catastrophe. But many said they could not in good conscience authorize more borrowing unless Obama agreed to cap federal spending, adopt triggers to force rewrites of the tax code and entitlement programs, or accept some other binding mechanism for bringing the debt under control.
“We’re going to require as a condition for raising the debt ceiling something really important,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters. “That means no window dressing, no blue smoke and mirrors — something real, something measurable that clearly will begin to reduce our debt.”
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) said: “It’s not just Republicans. A lot of Democrats, including myself, are not going to vote to raise the national debt ceiling unless there is something concrete, real, tough done to guarantee that the debt itself will be reduced in the coming years.”
McConnell said he will “be talking to the president about that very subject in great detail in the coming weeks.” He and other congressional leaders are scheduled to meet with Obama at the White House on Wednesday morning to preview the president’s speech, as Washington turns from the narrow battle over 2011 spending cuts to the more profound debate about how to shape an affordable government for an aging society.
The White House said Obama’s afternoon speech will lay out four steps to controlling spending without undermining the economy – keeping domestic spending low, finding new cuts in the defense budget, reducing health-care costs and boosting tax revenues.
Obama will also invoke elements of his 2012 budget and borrow from recommendations made by the bipartisan fiscal commission, a White House official said. He will say reductions in health-care spending should be accompanied by an effort to improve Medicare and Medicaid.
“The president will make clear that while we all share the goal of reducing our deficit and putting our nation back on a fiscally responsible path, his vision is one where we can live within our means without putting burdens on the middle class and seniors or impeding our ability to invest in our future,” a White House official said.