The poll vividly illustrates the dilemma facing lawmakers as they approach an Aug. 2 deadline on the debt ceiling. While congressional leaders in both parties have acknowledged that the Treasury needs to keep borrowing to pay the government’s bills, lawmakers are likely to face voters’ wrath if they can’t prove that they are also working to rein in the spiraling debt.
On Tuesday, Vice President Biden emerged from a fourth round of debt-reduction talks with six lawmakers from both parties and announced that the group is on pace to reach an agreement on more than $1 trillion in spending cuts, part of a package aimed at smoothing passage of a debt-limit increase.
“I think we’re in a position where we’ll be able to get to well above $1 trillion [in cuts] pretty quick,” Biden told reporters after meeting with lawmakers for 21
2 hours at the Capitol.
The group agreed earlier this month to look more closely at proposed cuts, worth nearly $200 billion over the next decade, to a variety of programs. On Tuesday, it dove into the more contentious question of whether to cut Medicare and Medicaid, the biggest drivers of future borrowing — a top GOP priority. In return, however, Biden said he will insist that Republicans back down on their opposition to new taxes.
“Revenues are going to have to be in the deal,” he said.
House Majority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.), one of two Republicans in the talks, reitereated the GOP opposition to tax increases.
“This process shows that if people come together, finding spending cuts isn’t that hard,” Cantor said. But, he said, “tax increases cannot pass the House.”
House GOP leaders, meanwhile, scheduled a vote for next week on a measure to raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion without an accompanying debt-reduction package, a move intended to show that such legislation has no chance of passing. Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has said that any debt-limit increase must be paired with a package of spending cuts that equals or exceeds the amount by which the debt ceiling is raised.
“They have nothing to sell right now,” said Republican consultant Tony Fratto, who as a Treasury Department official in the George W. Bush administration helped press Congress to push up the debt limit six times. Fratto said that while he believes the debt limit should be raised, without conditions, to avoid turmoil in financial markets, that position is clearly not acceptable to a majority of Americans.