Boehner: Real change needed in exchange for debt-limit increase

posted at 12:55 pm on January 6, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

If the administration wants a hike in the statutory debt ceiling, they will have to produce some agreement on broad budget cuts and structural changes first, John Boehner warns today in an e-mail to bloggers and the media.  Boehner drew the line in the sand while leaving himself some wiggle room on acceptable changes as the debt limit rapidly approaches and Congress runs out of maneuvering room (via Instapundit and Jim Geraghty):

I’ve been notified that the Obama Administration intends to formally request an increase in the debt limit. The American people will not stand for such an increase unless it is accompanied by meaningful action by the President and Congress to cut spending and end the job-killing spending binge in Washington. While America cannot default on its debt, we also cannot continue to borrow recklessly, dig ourselves deeper into this hole, and mortgage the future of our children and grandchildren. Spending cuts – and reforming a broken budget process – are top priorities for the American people and for the new majority in the House this year, and it is essential that the President and Democrats in Congress work with us in that effort.

This may not please those who want no increase in the debt limit at all, but at least it makes clear that the GOP wants a real commitment on budget reductions in exchange for the increase.  That makes sense, as I wrote today in my column at The Week, for a couple of reasons.  First, we can’t realistically cut the budget fast enough to avoid breaching the current limit, not even with the FY2011 budget in Republican hands in the House.  Next, the idea here is to fight for long-term budget reductions and reform, and we need to bargain for those while Democrats control the Senate and White House.

That’s not to say that the debt limit increase is somehow meaningless.  Some argue that the limit only allows Congress a freer hand and that it doesn’t require spending to its maximum, so that this is really a non-issue.  However, most of us realize that Congress has had a longstanding problem with fiscal discipline even with a statutory debt limit in place, and that the only thing we’ve seen is an acceleration in spending rather than any sudden realization of driving off of cliffs.  Raising the limit certainly doesn’t discourage that trend, which means it’s something that should only be done to stave off a crisis, and only with real changes that will eliminate the need to do it again in the future.

Will the Democrats call Boehner’s bluff?  His offer makes it harder for them to do so and argue that a crisis resulting in a shutdown or default would be the responsibility of the GOP.  After all, voters gave Republicans control of the House in large part to get spending under control.  This is a wise political move on Boehner’s part.

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Raising the debt ceiling is just stupid.
Think about it. Can you raise your debt ceiling? If you could, for how long?
You would then have to stop spending on any thing new until you got one of your debts paid off or until you brought in more money. Think the government will stop spending on anything new?
If you can’t raise the debt ceiling, you have to renegotiate or refinance with some of the lenders/institutions that you have or let them take the collateral you have against your debt.
If I don’t get my social security, I want a Stealth Jet and I’ll call it even. I’m being silly but if people would think about this in terms of themselves overspending, maybe more would hold the politicians responsible.

Vince on January 6, 2011 at 3:07 PM

I have to disagree with the common thought that Republicans will certainly lose the public over a shutdown. Just because Republicans lost the last one against Billy, doesn’t mean we always lose, even though the liberal media is dead-set against us.

slickwillie2001 on January 6, 2011 at 2:51 PM

I think you just answered your own comment.

Vince on January 6, 2011 at 3:11 PM

Republicans Are Doing Something Pretty Genius In Their Budget Cutting Efforts

Viator on January 6, 2011 at 3:19 PM

It would be nice to see some kind of spending curb come about as a result of this, but make no mistake, the debt limit must be increased. Not to do so would lead to a default of payment by the US government and that can simply never be allowed to happen.

MJBrutus on January 6, 2011 at 3:26 PM

Yes, the limit must be raised. It would be great if Boehner can extract some spending or budget concessions for doing it but the bottom line is, if Obama stonewalls and calls the bluff, we have to fold.

Goolsbee’s remarks suggesting the possibility of default were highly irresponsible – no figure of authority in any Administration should EVER suggest that is an option or possible outcome. If Obama had any sense, he would fire him on the spot. Big “IF” though . . .

I understand many people lack the understanding of the significance of threatening default. They need to be educated. Unfortunately, many of them don’t shut up long enough to learn anything.

Adjoran on January 6, 2011 at 4:02 PM

Keep the ceiling and monetize the intragovernmental holdings. That alone would knock off a few trillion.

clement on January 6, 2011 at 5:23 PM

How about we make budget cuts to everything and use that to pay down the debt. We could start by privatizing education..that’s a whole heckuva lot of spending right there. The EPA could be nixed as well. Oh, and why don’t we sell some of the land out west back to the people?


Sounds good. I’m sure it will be no problem getting the federal government completely out of education by March. Heck, they could probably eliminate the EPA by the end of next week if they really tried.

Meanwhile, back in the real world…..

xblade on January 6, 2011 at 6:12 PM

A buffalo stampede doesn’t stop on a dime. Allowing this increase in the debt ceiling doesn’t necessarily mean they are scamming us about being fiscally conservative.

Pablo Snooze on January 6, 2011 at 6:38 PM

The items that are contractually required, such as interest should be the first item in the budget. Appropriate that first. Then look as what’s left. That will demonstrate to the public what a true mess we’re in. I’m sure Boomers will demand that their entitlements come ahead of everything else, but if they expect to live past 70 or 75, they’d better get used to the idea of some kind of reform or gradual elimination of these programs. We’re headed for generational conflict and current retirees haven’t got a leg to stand on. Our “leaders” haven’t dared face up to what must be done, but the longer we put it off, the worse the crisis will be when we either have to default on our debts or increase taxes massively.

flataffect on January 6, 2011 at 11:08 PM

A buffalo stampede doesn’t stop on a dime. Allowing this increase in the debt ceiling doesn’t necessarily mean they are scamming us about being fiscally conservative.

Pablo Snooze on January 6, 2011 at 6:38 PM

It doesn’t mean they aren’t either. Given the history, ALL of the history, I will continue to assume it’s a scam.

runawayyyy on January 7, 2011 at 4:34 PM