House Speaker John Boehner Thursday called for President Obama and congressional leaders to consider “backup strategies” to “solve” the looming default crisis as no path to raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling is visible or legislatively viable.
“I think it would be irresponsible on behalf of the Congress and the president not to be looking at backup strategies for how to solve this problem,” Boehner said at a brief news conference at the Capitol. “But in the meantime, the House has acted. We've passed our cut, cap, and balance bill. It's time for the Senate to act."
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The Senate is scheduled to vote on and expected to defeat the House bill, which seeks an immediate cut in discretionary spending, a cap on future spending and a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution that would limit future government spending to 18 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Senate Democrats will vote to kill the measure, which has also drawn a veto threat.
Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor met with Obama on Wednesday and discussed various options to solve the debt crisis, among them a proposal to increase the debt ceiling until February or March with spending cuts covering the amount of the debt ceiling boost. Sources close to those talks said Obama rejected the GOP leaders’ suggestion, pushing again for a bigger deficit-reduction deal.
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As to the gravity of the crisis and what Boehner’s attitude is toward the August 2 deadline when the U.S. government will no longer be able to finance all its obligations, Boehner said: “I believe that the Congress must act before August 2nd. And I hope we're prepared to do that."
Boehner also reiterated his opposition to raising taxes as part of a deficit-reduction deal and said allowing the Bush tax cuts from 2001 and 2003 to expire would amount to a tax increase.
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“I believe that would be raising taxes,” Boehner said. “I've never voted to raise taxes and I don't intend to. That would not be my goal in any way, shape or form.”
When asked if a large number of House Republicans would oppose any alternative to cut, cap, and balance as part of a debt ceiling compromise, Boehner sounded uncharacteristically optimistic.
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“ I'm sure we've got some members who believe that,” Boehner said. “But I do not believe that would be anywhere close to the majority. At the end of the day, we have a responsibility to act.”
As to the consequences America faces if default comes, Boehner said an equally important issue is taming the nation’s debt load in the future.
“If we don't deal with the size of our debt, our credit rating is going to be downgraded. If the United States of America's debt rating gets downgraded, every interest rate in America will go up,” Boehner said. “It is important for us to act on both fronts. If we're serious about getting our economy going again and growing jobs.”
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