Speaker John Boehner warned Monday that he won’t agree to raising the debt ceiling unless Democrats and the White House accept spending cuts that exceed the increase in the nation’s debt level.
“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,” the Ohio Republican said in a speech at the Economic Club of New York.
“We should be talking about cuts of trillions, not just billions,” he said. “They should be actual cuts and program reforms, not broad deficit or debt targets that punt the tough questions to the future.”
Boehner’s demand for such large cuts marks a sharp escalation in his rhetorical war with Democrats in advance of talks to increase the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner predicts that the nation will default in early August unless Congress acts.
Boehner also reiterated his opposition to increasing taxes to address the nation’s debt and remained adamant that entitlements stay on the table.
“With the exception of tax hikes, which will destroy jobs, everything is on the table,” Boehner said. “That includes honest conversations about how best to preserve Medicare, because we all know, with millions of baby boomers beginning to retire, the status quo is unsustainable.”
Boehner’s speech could help blunt growing concerns among fiscal conservatives that he will cut a deal with the White House that does not include significant cuts.
He also hammered Democrats’ other economic policies, including the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory overhaul law, which he called “all wrong.”
“There was a financial meltdown in our country, and millions of Americans were hit hard. But Washington’s response was all wrong. We got a banking system that is less competitive, pitting the small community banks like the ones in my district against giant banks that the federal government deems ‘too big to fail,’” Boehner said.
“We got a consolidated banking system with a small number of large firms operating as public utilities,” he added. “We got a lot of new rules that make job creation and investment more difficult. And the government mortgage companies that triggered the whole meltdown went untouched.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.