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Boehner Seeks Spending 'Cuts and Reforms' Greater Than Debt Limit Increase

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call
Boehner called Tuesday for another round of spending cuts beyond the sequester as part of any agreement to raise the debt limit.

Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, pushing back against White House demands for no-frills legislation on the federal borrowing cap, is calling for another round of spending cuts beyond the sequester as part of any agreement to raise the debt limit.

“I believe that if we’re going to increase the debt limit, there ought to be cuts and reforms in place that are greater than the increase in the debt limit,” Boehner said in an interview Tuesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

GOP aides said the speaker was affirming the “Boehner rule,” a framework he set in the last Congress that required spending cuts to match any debt limit increase. But Boehner also focused on a long-term approach to spending reductions, suggesting Republicans also will seek an overhaul of entitlement programs as part of any fiscal talks.

“A lot of these things would be phased in over a long period of time, that when you look down the road over the next 10, 20, 30 years, will have a dramatic effect on our budget deficit and our debt,” Boehner said.

In the interview, Boehner dismissed Democratic warnings that another tough round of negotiations could endanger the nation’s credit rating. He and other Republicans have supported legislation similar to a House-passed bill (HR 807) by Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., that would require the Treasury Department to put a priority on the payment of principal and interest on government bonds and Social Security benefits if federal borrowing authority expires.

“Our goal here is not to default. Our goal here is to get ourselves on a sound fiscal path,” Boehner said.

The speaker provided no specific details of changes that he wanted to accompany spending cuts.

Talks in Progress

Federal borrowing authority expired on May 19, with the debt limit now set at about $16.7 trillion, but the Treasury Department has been using what it calls “extraordinary measures” to stave off the need for new borrowing authority until later this fall. A steep decline in the federal deficit in recent months along with an expected payment from government-sponsored mortgage enterprise Fannie Mae also have Treasury accounts on firmer footing this year.

But the administration still wants a deal to raise the government’s borrowing authority completed before the need for new borrowing authority is reached.

In recent days, top administration officials including Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew, and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough have held private talks with lawmakers on the debt limit.

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