World and Nation

House leader Boehner outlines demands on debt limit fight

WASHINGTON — House Speaker John A. Boehner said Monday that Republicans would insist on trillions of dollars in federal spending cuts in exchange for their support of an increase in the federal debt limit sought by the Obama administration to prevent a government default later this year.

In his most specific statement to date on what Republicans will demand in the debt ceiling fight, Boehner told the Economic Club of New York that the level of spending reductions should exceed the amount of the increase in borrowing power.

“Without significant spending cuts and changes to the way we spend the American people’s money, there will be no debt limit increase,” Boehner told members of New York’s business and finance community. “And cuts should be greater than the accompanying increase in debt authority the president is given.”

Boehner said those cuts should be in the trillions of dollars, not billions.

In the speech, delivered ahead of a second round of debt limit negotiations with the White House and Senate Democrats on Tuesday, Boehner did not provide a time frame for when the spending reductions would have to be imposed.

His address came after a leading Senate Democrat, Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, accused Boehner of “playing with fire” by holding the debt limit increase hostage to a push for spending cuts and budget restrictions.

“The idea of refusing to raise the debt ceiling should be taken off the table,” Schumer said in a conference call with reporters before the speech.

Schumer also said that he believed the debt limit increase should be approved by mid-July to reassure nervous credit markets, although the administration has said it can push the deadline into early August.

In his remarks, the speaker expressed strong resistance to the effort by some Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama for an alternative to enacting specific spending cuts as the price for increasing the debt limit: “triggers” that prompt automatic spending reductions and perhaps tax increases if Congress and the White House do not meet targets for lowering the deficit in coming years. That idea has emerged as providing the potential for compromise over the debt increase.

Boehner said the reductions should be “actual cuts and program reforms, not broad deficit or debt targets that punt the tough questions to the future. And with the exception of tax hikes — which will destroy jobs — everything is on the table.”