Tim Geithner Stays Mum On How U.S. Is Preparing For Default
WASHINGTON -- Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said in three talk show appearances Sunday he was still confident Congress and the administration would come to an agreement on raising the debt limit before time runs out, and he refused to reveal details of how the administration is planning to deal with a possible default if no such bargain is struck.
"It's unthinkable that this country will not meet its obligations on time. It's just unthinkable we'd ever do that. It's not going to happen,'' Geithner said on CNN's "State of the Union."
But the unthinkable is clearly being thought about. On Friday, Geithner met with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Federal Reserve Bank of New York President William Dudley to discuss "the implications for the U.S. economy if Congress fails to act."
On "Fox News Sunday," Geithner refused to give any specifics about the United States' contingency plans, even when pressed repeatedly on the matter by host Chris Wallace.
"Our plan is to get Congress to raise the debt ceiling raised on time ... We do not have the ability, Chris, to protect the American people from the consequences of Congress not taking that action," said Geithner, dodging Wallace's question several times.
Throughout his Sunday morning appearances, Geithner stressed that he believes some sort of grand bargain can still be reached before the country hits its $14.3 trillion limit on borrowing on Aug. 2, and he reiterated the administration's opposition to a short-term plan.
"The most important thing is that we remove this threat of default from the country for the next 18 months,'' Geithner said on CNN, pushing the next time the debt ceiling would need to be raised beyond the 2012 elections.
On Fox, he blamed politics for getting in the way of Congress taking action.
"We are running out of runway," said Geithner. "I never thought they would take it this close to the edge and let politics get in the way of demonstrating the will of paying our bills on time."
But later on Fox, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) accused President Obama of worrying about reelection as one of the reasons he's passing up a short-term deal.
"I know the president is worried about the next election. But my god, shouldn't we be worried about the country?" asked Boehner.
Boehner said Friday that one of the reasons talks had broken down was that Obama "moved the goal post" on tax revenue. He said the original agreement was for $800 billion, but Democrats then wanted another $400 billion on top of that.
But on ABC's "This Week," Geithner disputed that claim, denying that Democrats and Republicans had ever agreed on an $800 billion deal.
"No, we did not. And the president and the speaker got very close. But there was a whole range of things yet to be resolved at that point when the speaker pulled out on Friday," he said.
"At that point, the Republicans were still asking for deeper cuts in Medicare and Medicaid than we thought was acceptable," he continued. "Our position was -- as you heard the president say -- is we want to make sure the deal is balanced so that we're not putting too much of the burden of getting our fiscal house in order on the backs of elderly Americans and the most vulnerable. And so at that point, we were very close, but we were not there yet."
On "Fox News Sunday," Boehner said his offer of $800 billion in new revenue is still out there.
"It may be pretty hard to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, but my last offer is still out there," said Boehner. "I've never taken my last offer off the table."