Debt Limit Debate Heats Up

by Andrew Stiles

House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) told Politico there are no promises when it comes to whether or not Republicans will vote to raise the debt ceiling. “If the president doesn’t get serious about the need to address our fiscal nightmare, yeah, there’s a chance it [the debt limit vote] could not happen,” Boehner said. “But that’s not my goal.”

Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner lashed out at Republicans, saying the question of whether or not to raise the debt limit “is a ridiculous debate to have.”

“I mean, the idea — the idea that the United States would take the risk people would start to believe we won’t pay our bills — is a ridiculous proposition, irresponsible, completely unacceptable basic risk for us to take,” he said.

Geithner has estimated that the debt limit will be reached around May 16, though Treasury would be able to push back the absolute deadline until the first week of July. Still, he said the earlier the ceiling is raised, the better. “What I want to make sure they don’t do is to take us too far into June, to take us too close to the edge again,” he said. “And so our basic message to them is: Let’s get this done and get it moving.”

But it’s not just Republicans who think having a debate over the debt ceiling is an entirely reasonable proposition. Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) announced today his support for firm spending caps, specifically those outlined in the “CAP Act” sponsored by Sens. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) and Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.), which would impose legally binding caps on federal spending relative to a gradually reduced share of GDP, ultimately settling at 20.6 percent of GDP at the end of ten years. Manchin said the legislation could help the two parties to come an agreement over the debt limit.

In addition to Manchin, Sens. Kent Conrad (D., N.D.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Mark Pryor (D., Neb.), and Joe Lieberman (I., Conn.) have also indicated they would not accept an increase to the debt ceiling without meaningful, long-term commitments to reducing the debt.

National Journal has an extensive whip count on the debt-limit vote here. So far 50 Senators — 46 Republicans, three Democrats, and one Lieberman — have said they will not vote to raise the debt ceiling without some form of meaningful concessions on spending.

More here.

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