House Speaker Boehner On Debt Ceiling: "We’re going to have a whale of a fight"
Here's something new and different: House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and President Obama seem to have reached an impasse. Their current clash is over whether or not Congress will raise the federal debt ceiling, a necessary step the Obama administration has said it refuses to negotiate with Congressional Republicans. Congressional Republicans, however, are not known for taking "no" for an answer.
At a fundraiser for Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), Boehner said he planned to use the need to raise the debt ceiling as a means to gain political leverage and demand “cuts and reforms that are greater than the increase in the debt limit.”
"The president doesn’t think this is fair, thinks I’m being difficult to deal with," the House Speaker said. "But I’ll say this: It may be unfair, but what I’m trying to do here is to leverage the political process to produce more change than what it would produce if left to its own devices. We’re going to have a whale of a fight."
Ocean mammal references aside, at least Boehner acknowledges his plan is unfair? His position is an especially interesting one when you take into account he has said on multiple occasions he will not use the debt limit for political leverage.
Raising the debt ceiling should not be seen as a partisan issue, because doing so allows the executive branch to pay bills Congress has already authorized it to pay. The refusal to raise the debt ceiling amounts to a refusal to pay what the country already owes, something Washington has so far managed to avoid doing.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney put it aptly, saying Monday, "Let me reiterate what our position is, and it is unequivocal: We will not negotiate with Republicans in Congress over Congress’s responsibility to pay the bills that Congress has racked up, period."
Boehner's statements comes at the same time as a letter written by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, urging Congress to raise the debt limit. Lew wrote,
Congress should act as soon as possible to protect America’s good credit by extending normal borrowing authority well before any risk of default becomes imminent. Based on our latest estimates, extraordinary measures are projected to be exhausted in the middle of October. At that point, the United States will have reached the limit of its borrowing authority, and Treasury would be left to fund the government with only the cash we have on hand any given day.
If Congress refuses to raise the debt limit, maintaining the current ceiling would likely mean higher interest rates, as well as confusion and panic in markets around the world.
A whale of a problem, to say the least — but it's time for Boehner to acknowledge it's an avoidable one.