Democrats return fire after John Boehner's opening debt-ceiling salvo (+video)
Democrats charge that John Boehner's renewed call for spending cuts as a condition to raise the debt ceiling is 'dangerous,' recalling the standoff last summer that drove consumer confidence – and Congress's approval rating – sharply down.
Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday vowed that the House will not wait until after November elections to find a way to avoid a year-end "fiscal cliff" – and that House Republicans will, again, refuse to raise the national debt limit, unless Congress offsets the hike with spending cuts.Skip to next paragraph
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"Previous Congresses have encountered lesser precipices with lower stakes and made a beeline for the closest lame-duck escape hatch," Mr. Boehner said, at a speech at a fiscal summit sponsored by the Peterson Foundation in Washington. "Let me put your mind at ease. This Congress will not follow that path, not if I have anything to do with it."
But Democrats bristled at the way Boehner would keep the United States from financial Armageddon – an approach that the House Budget Committee's ranking Democrat likened to "playing chicken with our economy."
With Congress putting off an 18-wheeler's worth of challenges until the lame-duck session between the November elections and the new year, it could be said that all of Capitol Hill is staring down a massive financial collision. Whether to extend the Bush tax cuts and the budget-slashing "sequester," raise the debt ceiling, extend unemployment benefits and the payroll tax holiday, and fix payments to physicians from Medicare may all have to be resolved in only six short weeks.
By contrast, Boehner aims to get to work before November elections, offering by far the most concrete plans to get to work ahead of the lame-duck session of any congressional leader. The House will hold votes on the expiring Bush tax cuts before the elections, he said. It will also put together a process for an "expedited" path to tax reform in the new year.
"If we do this right, we will never again have to deal with the uncertainty of expiring tax rates," Boehner said.
It is on the question of the debt ceiling, however, that Boehner drew the most Democratic ire for his insistence on what might be called the "Boehner principle," that is: Every dollar of additional debt increase for the federal government must be matched by an equal or greater reduction in government spending.
"This is the only avenue I see right now to force the elected leadership of this country to solve our structural fiscal imbalance," he said.