Boehner: We Won't Raise the Debt Limit Without 'Trillions' in Cuts

Posted: May 09, 2011 7:56 PM

Speaking at the New York Economic Club moments ago, House Speaker John Boehner established House Republicans' battle lines for the incipient debt limit debate.  Here is the salient passage:

As you know, the president has asked Congress to increase the debt limit, and to do so without preconditions. 

There are those who insist we shouldn’t “play games” with it. 

Others have gone further.  One prominent figure even went so far as to say “the people who are threatening not to pass the debt ceiling are our version of Al-Qaeda terrorists.”

With all due respect, this is the arrogance of power — and the American people won’t stand for it. 

This is the time to end the spending binge and prioritize and modernize what we spend.

There’s a reason the debt limit can’t be increased without a vote of Congress.  The debt limit is set in statute specifically so that the executive and legislative branches of our government have to deal with the difficult fiscal choices we face.

I know there are many in this room who are uneasy with this debate.  I understand your concerns. 

It’s true that allowing America to default would be irresponsible.  But it would be more irresponsible to raise the debt ceiling without simultaneously taking dramatic steps to reduce spending and reform the budget process. 

To increase the debt limit without simultaneously addressing the drivers of our debt — in defiance of the will of our people — would be monumentally arrogant and massively irresponsible.

It would send a signal to investors and entrepreneurs everywhere that America still is not serious about dealing with our spending addiction. 

It would erode confidence in our economy and reduce certainty for small businesses.  And this would destroy even more American jobs.

So let me be as clear as I can be.  Without significant spending cuts and reforms to reduce our debt, there will be no debt limit increase. And the cuts should be greater than the accompanying increase in debt authority the president is given. 

We should be talking about cuts of trillions, not just billions. 

Basically, Boehner is confirming that the president's preference for a "clean" debt ceiling vote is a complete non-starter, given the gravity of what the vote represents.  Boehner went on to deliver some more tough talk on the perils of upping our national debt ceiling, blasting the president for displaying a "failure of leadership:"

The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.

Oh wait, my mistake. That last quote isn't Boehner's.  It actually comes from a speech delivered on the Senate floor by...Barack Obama in 2006 -- five years and several trillion dollars ago.

UPDATE - Here's video of the full speech.  The debt limit portion begins at the 9:45 mark:

Boehner repeatedly stated that tax hikes are "off the table."