Although Democrats say they are happy to debate how to fund the government, they add that they won’t negotiate over the separate issue of the debt ceiling.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said Republicans ought not put the nation’s creditworthiness at risk by demanding concessions in return for raising the debt limit.
“I don’t think the American public is going to stand for playing with what remains an economic weapon,” he said. “Playing around with the debt ceiling will create unnecessary economic harm.”
But House Republicans on Monday linked the two debates. They said they will insist that any increase in the debt limit be offset dollar for dollar by other spending cuts or cost-saving changes to federal programs — a principle established by House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) two years ago.
“The debt limit remains a reminder that, under President Obama, Washington has failed to deal seriously with America’s debt and deficit,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.
The White House and Republicans have been fighting over the debt since 2010 — a series of debates that have linked questions about taxes and spending to the bigger issue of whether to raise the limit.
In the summer of 2011, such clashes led the government to come within days of a default before an agreement was reached to increase the debt ceiling through the beginning of 2013. Many economists say that episode led to uncertainty that harmed the economy.
At the start of this year, Republicans agreed to suspend the debt limit for several months while they crafted a broader fiscal strategy. Republicans are continuing to draft that playbook, with ideas centering around changes to entitlements, among other issues.
On Monday, the White House reiterated that although it will negotiate over the budget, the debt ceiling must be handled separately.
“We have never defaulted, and we must never default,” press secretary Jay Carney said. “That is our position, 100 percent, full stop.”