(CNN) – Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Sunday that those who oppose raising the U.S. debt ceiling under any circumstance are just playing politics.
"It's a political moment, people are trying to get attention, they say really amazing things," Geithner told the CBS program "Face the Nation." "But there's no credible argument, no responsible leader would say the United States of America, for the first time in its history, should not pay its bills or meet its obligations."
"There's just a lot of political theater in this business," Geithner added.
Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota is one of the conservative Republicans opposing an increase to the debt limit, regardless of whether the Obama administration and congressional leaders reach a deal on deficit reduction.
Most of the other Republican presidential candidates have said they would oppose an increase without substantial spending cuts and limits on future spending.
Negotiations are ongoing between Republicans and Democrats over a deal to raise the debt ceiling before August 2, when the Treasury Department has said the U.S. could begin defaulting on its loans. Republicans reject tax increases and Democrats will only agree to reforms in entitlement programs if wealthy Americans pay more in taxes, leaving discussions largely at a standstill.
But Geithner said plans proposed by Republicans rely too much on spending cuts, which would hurt entitlement beneficiaries. He cited a House budget proposal by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, as an example.
"If you try to do it with just cuts, you're putting unacceptably deep cuts in benefits for Medicare beneficiaries in the future and you can't do that politically, and it's unfair to do it," Geithner said.
- CNN's Tom Cohen contributed to this report.