Boehner Downplays Debt Ceiling Fight as Leverage

Boehner said the GOP may use the debt ceiling increase to push for long-term entitlement changes. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Speaker John A. Boehner downplayed the importance of the debt ceiling increase in remarks to reporters Thursday, saying it might provide “some” leverage to Republicans to force spending cuts, “but I’m not going to risk the full faith and credit of the federal government.”

Rather than isolating the debt ceiling as an individual point of leverage, Republicans are hinting they’ll use it alongside the sequester cuts and the budget fight to push for long-term entitlement changes.

“We’ve made clear that to get rid of the sequester, we need cuts and reforms that will put us on a path to balance the budget over 10 years. The president is clear that he’s not going to address our entitlement crisis unless we’re willing to raise taxes. I think the tax issue’s been resolved. So at this point in time, I don’t know how we go forward,” the Ohio Republican said.

Republicans are planning an extended closed-door meeting to hammer out their strategy on the debt ceiling and other issues when they return from Easter recess. Boehner and other members of House leadership met on March 14 with a working group of influential conservatives on the issue.

Conservatives in the group are coalescing around demanding changes to entitlements for the debt ceiling increase and said the extended conference session will allow the GOP to “hash out” which reforms they will support.