WASHINGTON -- One day before the federal government is scheduled to reach its debt limit, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he is ready to make a deal to raise the debt ceiling and that Congress does not have to wait until the "eleventh hour" to do so.
In an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday, Boehner conceded that Congress will need to eventually raise the debt ceiling, which currently stands at $14.29 trillion. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner wrote in a letter to Congress earlier this month that the nation will reach its debt limit on May 16, but can rely on “extraordinary measures” to prevent from defaulting on its loans until August. Geithner wrote that default by the U.S. "would have a catastrophic economic impact that would be felt by every American," and other economists have said that failing to raise the debt ceiling would have a disastrous effect on the markets.
Despite these warnings, many members of Congress have said that they will not vote for a bill that raises the debt ceiling unless it is paired with other efforts to get the nation’s deficit under control, such as major spending cuts or changes to entitlement programs. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reiterated on Sunday that he sees the pending debt limit deadline as a “great opportunity” to talk about spending.
McConnell has said he will vote against any debt-limit deal if it does not include long-term cuts to entitlment programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
"Rather than thinking of this as a crisis, I think of this as an opportunity to come together," he said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding that he would not support tax increases as part of the deal.
Boehner has also ruled out tax increases as part of a deal for grappling with the long-term deficit, despite appeals by Democrats to use revenue-increasing measures to avoid some program cuts.
On “Face the Nation,” Boehner invited President Barack Obama to join him in tackling entitlement spending, alluding to the House GOP budget that made major cuts to Medicare.
“Let’s lock arms and we'll jump out of the boat together,” Boehner said.
Boehner said last week he wants the debt-ceiling deal to include trillions of dollars in cuts, equal to the amount the debt ceiling will be raised, but he has been mum on his proposed timeline for those changes.
Still, he said it will be necessary to raise the debt limit, despite criticisms from other GOP politicians that raising the debt ceiling will enable more unnecessary spending. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, for instance, said on Sunday she opposes any increase to the debt limit, telling ABC’s “This Week” that Congress should “absolutely not” raise the ceiling.
"I think it is necessary, but I understand the doubts," Boehner said. "At some point it's clear to me that we have to raise the debt ceiling."
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