John Boehner accuses Democrats of "hysteria"
House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday that the Democratic response to his insistence Monday that a vote to increase the debt limit must be coupled with cuts in spending has amounted to "hysteria."
"Earlier this week, I again made clear that there would be no debt increase without meaningful spending cuts and budget reforms," he said. "As I said on Monday, the spending cuts should be greater than the accompanying increase in the debt limit."
"Clearly we struck a nerve," continued the Ohio Republican. "And the response from the White House, and from Democrats, and the left has been panic and hysteria."
The $14.3 trillion debt limit, which Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner estimates will be exceeded August 2, was expected to be raised by $2 trillion - which would mean that Boehner wants more than $2 trillion in cuts as part of a vote to raise it. A Boehner aide tells CBS News, however, that the debt limit could be increased by a smaller amount. $2 trillion is the Treasury Department's estimate for what would cover the United States through the next election.
Boehner's Monday speech, which included assertions contradicted by market indicators and government reports, was an attempt to lay out the parameters for the debate over the debt ceiling. While Democrats want a "clean" vote to raise the debt ceiling, Republicans insist on coupling the unpopular vote with spending cuts.
Democrats have suggested that not raising the debt ceiling would be catastrophic. It could mean increased interest rates, the shutdown of much of the government, and delays in Social Security and Medicare checks tied to the government's inability to make payments to agencies. Even simply approaching the August 2 deadline without increasing the ceiling could significantly rattle markets.
Boehner has competing pressures in dealing with the issue. Prominent Wall Street players, many of them significant Republican donors, want to see the debt limit raised as soon as possible. But a number of fiscally-conservative House Republicans, many of them freshmen, are refusing to vote to increase the ceiling without significant spending cuts and other concessions.
Lawmakers have long played politics with the debt ceiling vote - President Obama, for example, voted against raising the ceiling when he was a senator.
"We are determined to cut spending and change the way Washington spends the American taxpayer's dollar," Boehner said Thursday. "The American people have overwhelmingly rejected the idea of giving the president a blank check to increase the debt limit - and Republicans are listening to the American people."
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