Setting the stage for a fall showdown over raising the nation’s debt ceiling, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, renewed on Tuesday his insistence that “we're not going to raise the debt ceiling without real cuts in spending. It's as simple as that.”
As President Barack Obama readies a series of speeches later this week setting the parameters for this fall’s fight over government spending, the top House Republican said his position remained unchanged.
“I believe the so-called Boehner Rule is the right formula for getting that done,” he later added, referring to the eponymous rule matching new debt authority with spending cuts
The speaker’s words make for a hard-line negotiating position for Republicans heading into yet another debt showdown with Obama. While Republicans extracted spending cuts during the initial 2011 fight over extending the debt ceiling, it produced the so-called “fiscal cliff” – a combination of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts – with which Congress had to reckon at the end of 2012.
Lawmakers’ ability to deal with the fiscal cliff was mixed. Taxes were allowed to rise, but only on incomes over $400,000. But the automatic spending cuts, known as the “sequester,” were allowed to take effect despite dire warnings from both Obama and economists about the cuts’ effect on the economy. Though the economy has grown in 2013, and has continued to add jobs, critics of the sequester argue that growth would be more robust if the cuts had never taken place.
Whether Obama will be willing to assent to more cuts to extract an increase in the debt ceiling is an open question.
Republicans in Congress, smarting from the political fallout over the fiscal cliff at the beginning of this year, volunteered to extend the debt limit through mid-May so long as both the House and Senate produced budget proposals for the 2013-14 fiscal year. (Both chambers did just that.)
However, neither of those budget proposals have advanced because the House and Senate have refused to appoint negotiators to hash out a compromise between the two proposals. The debate over whether to proceed with these “conference” negotiations has been particularly charged in the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has vocally criticized conservatives who have objected to naming negotiators. Complicating the politics, some senior Republicans like Arizona Sen. John McCain, have also criticized fellow GOP senators for blocking budget talks from going forward.