Congressman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said on Sunday that House Republicans did not want to see the country default on its loans when it hits the debt limit in May, but emphasized they would not agree to "rubber stamp" an increase on the debt ceiling without significant concessions.
Ryan, the chair of the House Budget Committee, also disputed a recent statement by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner implying that the Republican leadership had already agreed to approve such an increase under the justification that "We know that the risk [of not approving it] would be catastrophic."
According to projections by the Treasury, the U.S. government is expected to hit its $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by May 16, 2011. If Congress does not approve an increase to the limit, the federal government could default on its bonds for the first time in history, and Social Security and Medicare checks would likely see delays as a result of the government's inability to make payments to agencies.
Ryan, in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday, said Republicans did not want to "play around with the country's credit rating" - but he did not guarantee that they would vote to increase the debt limit without "cuts in controls and spending going forward."
"Nobody wants to play around with the country's credit rating," Ryan told CBS' Bob Schieffer. "Nobody wants to see defaults happening - but we also think it's important to get a handle on future borrowing as we deal with raising the debt limit.
"Nobody is saying we want to see default," he added.
When asked by Schieffer what conditions Republicans would demand, Ryan said that they were "not really interested in negotiating through the media," but added that they wanted assurance of concessions, potentially including spending cuts and debt caps, in order to vote for the increase.
"What we're saying here is spending cuts and controls in conjunction with raising the debt limit," he told Schieffer. "That's what we've been saying all along."
When pressed as to whether or not Republicans would still vote for raising the debt limit if their demands were not met, Ryan said no.
"I do not ... no, we won't raise it, just simply raise the debt limit," he said. "We will vote to have spending cuts and controls in conjunction with the debt limit increase."
He added that he did not think May 16 was a "hard-fast deadline."
"There are things Treasury can do to get more time," he said. "We shouldn't accept the premise that we just have to rubber stamp a debt increase without any spending controls."
In a Sunday interview on ABC's "This Week," however, Geithner said Congress would "absolutely" raise the debt ceiling.
"I want to make it perfectly clear that Congress will raise the debt ceiling," Geithner told ABC's Christiane Amanpour. "I sat there with [congressional leaders], and they said, 'We recognize we have to do this. And we're not going to play around with it.'
"This is just about the basic trust and confidence in the United States," Geithner continued. "It's about the basic recognition that we made commitments, we have to meet our commitments. There's no alternative, and they recognize that."
Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, in an appearance on "Face the Nation," said it was "dangerous" to "roll the dice on the debt limit," and called for Congress to swiftly agree to an increase.
"You get close to that debt limit and you could actually scare the bond markets," he warned. "They could end up raising interest rates which would dramatically cut back on the recovery, not just in terms of the government spending but somebody going out trying to get a loan, trying to close on a house, a company trying to hire a new employee."
"This is literally, potentially, lighting the match that could burn down the house," Warner added. "I hope our colleagues on both sides will go ahead and raise the debt limit."