House GOP, Dem leaders agree: No short term debt limit fix

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor gestures during a question and answer period following an address at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011.
AP Photo/Charles Krupa
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said today he doesn't want a short-term debt limit increase.
AP Photo/Charles Krupa

A self-imposed deadline to raise the debt ceiling is fast approaching, but both Democratic and Republican leaders in the House say they are opposed to a short-term solution.

"I don't see how multiple votes on a debt ceiling increase can help get us to where we want to go," House Republican Leader Eric Cantor said to reporters today. "It is my preference that we do this thing one time."

Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, agreed that Congress should pass a debt limit extension that lasts at least until 2013 -- past the next election.

"Temporary is better than none, but temporary continues to roil the market," Hoyer told reporters. "It continues to send a message to the world to lenders and to our own businesses here this country that the Congress cannot come to grips with doing what it responsibly knows it must do."

The sentiment in the House contrasts with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's assertion on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday that Congress would "probably end up with" a modest debt limit increase as a short-term solution.

Hoyer added that a long-term solution would be preferable, regardless of whether it comes in the form of a standalone vote, or as part of a comprehensive deficit reduction package.

Vice President Joe Biden is meeting on Capitol Hill this week with a group of bipartisan lawmakers to hash out a deal to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. The U.S. government hit the debt limit on May 16, but the Treasury Department implemented what it called "extraordinary" measures to keep the government from defaulting on its loans. The Obama administration and several economists have warned, however, that Congress must raise the debt limit by Aug. 2 to avoid economic catastrophe.

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Republicans, meanwhile, have argued that raising the debt limit without also making significant cuts to the federal budget would be irresponsible. Negotiators in Biden's group are trying to craft a deficit reduction package to give moderates and conservatives the political cover to vote in favor of raising the debt limit. They're hoping to reach an agreement before Congress leaves for its July 4 recess.

Cantor said today that Biden's group has reached "crunch time," and if Congress can't come to an agreement now, he's not sure they could later. Negotiators are still discussing deficit reduction proposals related to taxes and health benefits. "We are at some really tough stuff," Cantor said.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner today told business executives that he was confident Biden's group would reach an agreement. "We're going to avoid a default crisis, no doubt about that," Geithner said, the Associated Press reports. He warned, however, against dramatic spending cuts that could harm economic growth.

Meanwhile, conservative groups like Club for Growth and FreedomWorks are lobbying conservative lawmakers to sign a pledge, promising they will not vote to raise the debt limit unless certain conditions are met. The pledge calls for a balanced budget amendment, federal spending caps and substantial spending cuts in return for such a vote. So far, at least eight conservative Republican senators have signed the pledge.