Evan Vucci, Associated Press - Ap
White House warns GOP over a debt limit standoff
- Article by: HELENE COOPER
- New York Times
- May 17, 2012 - 7:28 AM
WASHINGTON - President Obama and congressional Republicans staged a preview of a looming end-of-year battle on Wednesday, as the president warned Republicans that he would not allow Congress to hold the economy "hostage" to another fight over whether to raise the country's debt ceiling without accompanying cuts in spending.
During a lunch of hoagie sandwiches at the White House that was supposed to be about urging Congress to act on proposals to spur the economy, Obama and House Speaker John Boehner clashed again over the debt ceiling. Boehner initiated the hostilities on Tuesday, when he appeared to signal that he wanted to start scrapping over the debt ceiling this summer, in the middle of the election campaign, instead of at year's end, when the country will again need to raise the borrowing limit.
Boehner stood by his position at the White House, an aide said, telling the president: "I'm not going to allow a debt ceiling increase without doing something serious about the debt."
The president and his Democratic allies were talking tough, too. "It is simply not acceptable to hold the American and global economy hostage to one party's political ideology," said Jay Carney, the White House press secretary.
'Avoid the fiscal cliff'
Last summer, House Republicans balked at raising the debt ceiling without deep spending cuts, an impasse that led to the lowering of the country's debt rating. After weeks of drama, the White House and Congress reached an agreement that raised the debt ceiling until, most likely, the end of this year, after the November elections.
But some people seem ready to start fighting now.
Boehner said he would not allow Congress to duck difficult decisions with another round of short-term measures. He said the House would pass an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts before the election, and he urged lawmakers in both parties to reach a long-term deal on spending and tax changes to head off a fiscal calamity. "To get on the path to prosperity, we have to avoid the fiscal cliff, but we need to start today," he said.
Democrats were not running from the fight either.
An aide to Sen. Harry Reid, the majority leader, said that Reid reminded Boehner and Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, that "absent a balanced agreement that pairs smart spending cuts with revenue measures asking millionaires to pay their fair share, the debt will be dealt with through the sequester." That is a reference to a previous deal that would automatically cut $1.2 trillion in spending, with half taken out of military spending and half from domestic spending.
Senate Republicans, meanwhile, engineered a daylong debate designed to highlight the Democratic majority's inability for the third year to produce a budget blueprint -- and to embarrass Obama by bringing his budget to a vote. A procedural motion to proceed to the Obama budget failed, 99-0.
Small business pitch
The White House lunch was intended to be a chance for Obama to take advantage of presidential prerogative to hawk his to-do list. The president wants Congress to approve a proposal to help small businesses that hire additional workers, and to look for ways to hire more veterans. "Too many folks are still out of work," Obama said told small-business owners before the lunch. "So my message to Congress ... is let's go ahead and act to help build and sustain momentum for our economy."
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