Boehner sets up another debt limit fight
UPDATED 4:10 p.m. ET
(CBS News) For anyone listening to House Speaker John Boehner this afternoon at the Peterson Foundation Fiscal Summit in Washington, DC, his words might have sounded familiar.
According to the speaker's remarks, Boehner said that when the time comes for President Obama to ask for another increase in the nation's legal borrowing limit, "I will again insist on my simple principle of cuts and reforms greater than the debt limit increase."
Boehner made this same demand before the great debt limit showdown last summer. The requirement that the increase be matched dollar for dollar with spending cuts led to months of wrangling between, and within, the two parties over which cuts should be made and whether a "grand bargain" was something the Mr. Obama and the speaker could achieve to cut trillions from the deficit.
Ultimately, a grand bargain was out of reach. Boehner said today that the president "moved the goalposts, changed his stance and demanded tax hikes."
"We ended up enacting a package with cuts and reforms larger than the hike," Boehner added. "But it could have been so much more. The letdown was considerable. And, in turn, our nation's credit rating was downgraded for the first time."
The failure of the president and speaker to reach agreement resulted in a deal to create a "supercommittee" designed to find at least $1.2 trillion in deficit savings to accompany the need for a debt limit increase.
The only problem with that plan was that the supercommittee, made up of both Republicans and Democrats, failed to reach an agreement over the right mix of spending cuts and tax increases. The two sides were unable to find common ground. The result of that, if Congress does not act, is that $1.2 trillion in cuts will go into effect at the end of this year automatically with half of those cuts coming out of the defense budget while the country is still at war.
Will it be any easier next time?
Speaker Boehner seems to think it's the only way forward given the continuing fiscal imbalance and $15 trillion federal deficit.
"This is the only avenue I see right now to force the elected leadership of this country to solve our structural fiscal imbalance" Boehner said. "If that means we have to do a series of stop-gap measures, so be it - but that's not the ideal. Let's start solving the problem. We can make the bold cuts and reforms necessary to meet this principle, and we must."
When asked about the speaker's comments, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said the dollar for dollar requirement "is a simplistic characterization of the issue that confronts us. We are buying more than we're paying for. The Republicans are good at buying and lousy at paying."
"The debt limit should not be a political issue" Hoyer added saying it undermines confidence in the United States. "Mr. Boehner knows it shouldn't be a political issue."
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said that the country will likely hit the borrowing limit at the end of this year, but that it's likely they can find a way to wait for a debt limit increase until the beginning of next year at the start of a new Congress.
Boehner said that the fight over the debt limit should be considered an opportunity.
"We shouldn't dread the debt limit. As a matter of fact, we should welcome it" Boehner said. "It's an action-forcing event in a town that has become infamous for inaction."
Sen. Patty Murray, who served on last year's super committee, slammed Boehner for setting up another showdown.
"Republicans have spent the last year running away from the deal we made to avoid the last artificial crisis they created, so I don't know why the speaker is already laying the groundwork for another one. Apparently one Tea Party credit downgrade isn't enough for House Republicans," the Washington state Democrat said in a prepared statement.
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