Republican leaders laid out their plan of attack for the looming budget battle this week, promising to use the debt ceiling—again—as a trump card against President Obama’s economic plan.
“We’re not going to raise the debt ceiling without real cuts in spending. It’s as simple as that,” Boehner told reporters on Tuesday.
Obama plans to address the country from Illinois on Wednesday, touting the slow success of his economic programs and laying out his terms for government spending in the fall. The president has repeatedly vowed against negotiating over the debt ceiling, a point White House spokesman Jay Carney reiterated at a press briefing on Monday.
“We’ve made clear we’re not going to negotiate with Congress over Congress’s responsibility to pay the bills that it’s already racked up. We’re just not,” Carney said.
The White House is pushing to avoid a repeat of a similar fight two years ago, when a showdown over whether Congress would raise the debt ceiling resulted in a downgrade of the country’s credit rating, and triggered negotiations on sequestration—automatic cuts that would be implemented should a budget deal not be struck. Sequestration happened and $2.5 trillion was cut the deficit through huge cuts to both domestic and defense programs.
“And it is an irresponsible thing to even flirt with, because the flirtation itself does harm to our economy. And hopefully that won’t happen, because we saw what happened when that flirtation took place in the summer of 2011,” Carney said of debt ceiling threats on Tuesday Tuesday.
Boehner also hinted that Republicans would look to replace the sequester with more sensible—but still deep—cuts.
“We need significant cuts in spending if we’re going to replace the sequester and extend the debt limit,” he said.
But the party also sought to throw significant blame on the president.
Obama’s speech “translates to the president previewing what he may demand in exchange for his signature on bills to keep open the government, which will run out of funding in October,” John Boehner’s spokesman Brendan Buck wrote in a blog post published in advance of the press conference. “At issue is whether the president will again threaten a government shutdown unless Congress provides him higher taxes on small businesses to replace the deficit reduction produced by the automatic spending cuts–sequestration–that are currently in place.”
Liberals see a similar hostage situation on the right: Republicans in the Senate are lining up to block any budget if it includes funding for Obamacare, while others in the Senate are standing to the right of the House GOP, blocking a procedural vote in the Senate, demanding a formal promise that the debt ceiling won’t be raised at all.
Boehner and other House Republicans also slammed the president for laying out his plan in a speech.
“You know if the president was serious about helping the economy he wouldn’t give another speech, he would reach out and actually work with us to pass things like the Keystone Pipeline that would put tens of thousands of Americans back to work,” Boehner said at their press conference.