Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) has been having a hard time playing both sides of the debate over whether or not to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. On the one hand, he admits that failure to do so would be a “disaster” and that Republicans need to to “deal with it as adults.” But on the other, he’s trying to placate Tea Partiers within the GOP caucus by claiming that Republicans won’t raise the debt ceiling unless Congressional Democrats and the Obama administration accept spending cuts and budget reforms.
Boehner is traveling to Manhattan tonight to deliver a speech to the Economic Club of New York, in an attempt “to lay out a strategy for raising the debt ceiling to a crowd heavy on Wall Street players who are anxiously watching the fierce debate over the debt ceiling unfold.” And according to excerpts released this afternoon, Boehner is still trying to walk the fine line between placating the fringe elements in his party and acknowledging that allowing the U.S. to hit its debt limit is not an option:
It’s true that allowing America to default would be irresponsible. But it would be more irresponsible to raise the debt ceiling without simultaneously taking dramatic steps to reduce spending and reform the budget process. To increase the debt limit without simultaneously addressing the drivers of our debt — in defiance of the will of our people — would be monumentally arrogant and massively irresponsible. It would send a signal to investors and entrepreneurs everywhere that America still is not serious about dealing with our spending addiction…Without significant spending cuts and reforms to reduce our debt, there will be no debt limit increase. And the cuts should be greater than the accompanying increase in debt authority the president is given. We should be talking about cuts of trillions, not just billions.
This is similar to remarks made by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), who said at a National Press club event that failing to raise the debt ceiling is “unworkable,” then proceeded to take it hostage anyway. But as the Wall Street Journal’s Paul Gigot pointed out to Ryan, “you have to pass a debt ceiling increase, so that’s a hostage you’re not prepared to shoot, ’cause you can’t.” Indeed, failing to raise the debt ceiling would have several severe consequences for the U.S. and world economy, and would increase America’s budget costs significantly.
But at the same time that Boehner’s taking the creditworthiness of the country hostage for huge cuts that would severely impact the middling economic recovery, he’s ruled tax increases entirely “off the table,” proving that he doesn’t actually care all that much about reducing the deficit. He’s simply trying to win concessions for something that even he acknowledges his party has to vote to do anyway.