WASHINGTON -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday slammed House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for sparking another potential showdown over tying an increase in the debt ceiling to trillions in spending cuts.
"They did it before. Here we go again," Pelosi told reporters during her weekly briefing.
"To toss this into the mix right now, saying we have to have cuts that exceed ... the extent that we lift the debt ceiling is really immature. Irresponsible. Let's get serious," she said.
Boehner made waves earlier this week when he said he will "insist" that matching spending cuts be linked to raising the debt limit when it hits its cap late this year or early next year. When Republicans made the same demand last year, the U.S. nearly defaulted on its debt for the first time in history and the country's sterling Standard & Poor's credit rating got downgraded. Thousands of federal workers were also kept on edge for months as they waited to see whether they would be paid in the event of a default. Congress ultimately raised the debt ceiling, at the last minute, and reduced the deficit by $2.1 trillion.
Pelosi said the mere fact that Boehner is bringing up the prospect of another fight over raising the debt ceiling is potentially harmful for the economy. She noted that even though lawmakers averted default last year, the nation's credit rating was still lowered because credit rating agencies lost confidence that Congress would be able to address deficit matters.
"So this is not a wholesome debate. It already can be damaging, just the fact that it's brought up," Pelosi said of Boehner's talk of making spending cuts part of the equation again. "I think that we should snuff it out immediately."
But Senate Republican leaders have already begun lining up behind Boehner's demand. And in his Thursday briefing with reporters, Boehner doubled down that it's time for Congress to address the debt in a serious way.
"The only ones who are talking about drama or brinksmanship are my Democratic colleagues across the aisle," Boehner said. "We can use the debt limit debate to force Washington to act, to cut spending and enact some of the real reforms that will help put America on a path to prosperity."
"The White House wants to raise the debt limit without a single dime of spending cuts or reforms. Listen, with nearly $16 trillion in debt already, it's not credible," he said. "We need a president who will show up and work with us, both Democrats and Republicans, to address these pressing concerns."
Of course, one of the biggest obstacles to achieving a significant deficit reduction deal last year was that Republicans would not accept new revenues in the mix with massive spending cuts. Democrats were pushing for tax hikes on the wealthy and assurances that Medicare and Social Security would be part of the agreement, but Republicans wouldn't accept either.
Boehner was asked Thursday if he would support new revenues this time around, but he demurred, instead doubling down on the need to begin talking about addressing the debt. Asked if he could envision a scenario in which Republicans agreed to raise the debt ceiling before the November elections without tying it to spending cuts, Boehner said it would be difficult.
"When the president told me yesterday that he wanted a clean increase in the debt limit, it almost took my breath away," he said. "I reminded the president that when we put that idea on the floor of the House, it got about 20 votes."