At an address to the Peter G. Peterson Fiscal Summit Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner called on President Obama to “again meet the principle of cuts greater than the hike” on any agreement to a looming debt-limit increase, which is expected during the lame-duck session after the election.
A deal to extend the debt ceiling lasts only through 2012. President Obama is set to host Congressional leaders, including Boehner, at the White House for lunch on Wednesday to discuss the debt and other legislative priorities.
“When the time comes, I will again insist on my simple principle of cuts and reforms greater than the debt-limit increase,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “This is the only avenue I see right now to force the elected leadership of this country to solve our structural fiscal imbalance. If that means we have to do a series of stop-gap measures, so be it. But that’s not the ideal. Let’s start solving the problem. We can make the bold cuts and reforms necessary to meet this principle, and we must.”
Boehner’s comments set up a replay of the high stakes and heated debt limit fight that snarled Washington after Republicans took control of the House of Representatives.
The statutory debt-limit mandates how much money the federal government can borrow. When that cap maxes out, Congress must approve the president’s request to raise the ceiling. The bickering over the last debt-limit increase dominated the fiscal debate on Capitol Hill for most of 2010.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, reacted to Boehner by telling reporters that the dollar-for-dollar principle is “a simplistic characterization of the issue that confronts us,” and he warned that Congress could “undermine the confidence in the United States by continuing this game on the debt limit.”
“We are buying more than we’re paying for,” Hoyer, D-Md., said this morning at his weekly pen-and-pad briefing. “The Republicans are good at buying and lousy at paying. They borrowed a lot of money. As a result, we owe a lot of money. The debt limit is about paying back that which we have already incurred.”
Hoyer, who has served in the House of Representatives since 1981, called the frantic schedule of legislative deadlines at the end of the year “unlike any I have seen since I have been in Congress” and he once again reiterated his belief that both parties should strike “a big, bold, balanced deal.”
“We’ve incurred the debts, we need to pay the debts,” Hoyer said. “What we need to do in paying the debts is make sure that we have a balanced program of revenues and expenditures.”
Boehner is scheduled to deliver remarks at 2:45 p.m., when he will “lay out a path for seizing this opportunity to end the era of short-term government interventions and focus instead on reforms that promote long-term economic investment, private initiative, and freedom,” according to his office.
“We shouldn’t dread the debt limit. We should welcome it. It’s an action-forcing event in a town that has become infamous for inaction,” Boehner will say. “Just so we’re clear, I’m talking about real cuts and reforms, not these tricks and gimmicks that have given Washington a pass on grappling with its spending problem.”
Boehner is also expected to announce that the House will vote before the November election on comprehensive tax overhaul to begin what he will call “an expedited process by which Congress would enact real tax reform in 2013.”
“Any sudden tax hike would hurt our economy, so this fall – before the election – the House of Representatives will vote to stop the largest tax increase in American history,” Boehner will say, adding that the Ways and Means Committee will work out the details. “This will give Congress time to work on broad-based tax reform that lowers rates for individuals and businesses while closing deductions, credits, and special carve-outs.
“If we do this right, this will be the last time we ever have to confront the uncertainty of expiring tax rates,” he’ll add. “We’ll have replaced the broken status quo with a tax code that maintains progressivity, taxes income once and creates a fairer, simpler code.”
Hoyer said he believes Boehner, who negotiated secretly with President Obama last summer on a prospective-but-failed ”Grand Bargain,” could likely come to terms on a balanced, bipartisan agreement this time around. But Hoyer doubted Boehner would have the support of his rank-and-file members, telling reporters that although the rest of Republicans “believe in big and bold,” the GOP “does not believe in balance.”
“[Republicans] want tax cuts that were included in the budget for those who are doing the best in America and they want a cut to those who have less in America,” he said. “Those are not [the Democrats'] priorities. We have a substantial substantive disagreement, and we think that would be harmful to the economy, harmful to the American people and harmful to our values.”
This post was updated after Boehner’s speech and to include news of the White House meeting.