January 6th, 2013
01:32 PM ET
8 years ago

Lawmakers dig in on debt ceiling debate

(CNN) – The eleventh-hour compromise that avoided the fiscal cliff cannot be repeated when it comes time to raise the nation's debt ceiling, top lawmakers agreed Sunday.

But whether Republicans and Democrats can agree on how to raise the debt ceiling - specifically, whether or not to pair the increase with spending cuts - remains to be seen.

Speaking on CNN, Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, said spending cuts and tax reform are needed as part of a balanced plan to further reduce the federal deficit, but that linking them to a routine increase in the debt ceiling was a perilous proposal from Republicans.

"The debt ceiling is something that we should put behind us in a hurry," Durbin told CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley on "State of the Union."

The country's borrowing has actually already passed its legal limit - currently $16.394 trillion. As a result, the Treasury can't borrow any more money in the markets, so it has begun to use "extraordinary measures" to ensure that the government can continue to pay all its bills in full and on time. But those measures can only buy about two months' grace.

If the ceiling isn't raised by late February or early March, the United States runs the risk of defaulting on its obligations, because the Treasury would no longer have enough money available to pay all the country's bills.

Republicans' vow to demand spending cuts in an amount equal to the debt limit increase "sounds like a bargain," Durbin said, but he added that it placed a caveat on negotiations that could lead to the nation defaulting on its debt.

"What I'm saying is the president should not have one of these last-minute showdowns over the debt ceiling, but we should speak in honest and I think complete terms about dealing with this deficit," Durbin said. "It truly is a challenge we haven't faced as much as we should."

Durbin's colleague, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, said he, too, was opposed to a last-minute vote to increase the nation's debt limit. Such an eleventh-hour deal was struck in August 2011 to raise the ceiling the last time the nation's debt reached its limit. The political haggling that put the country at the edge of default resulted in a credit downgrade from the ratings agency Standard & Poor's.

"In terms of the debt ceiling debate, the rank and file in my conference have had it with last-minute deals where you can't read the bill before the ink gets dry," Graham said, also on "State of the Union." "We've got to do better in the future than we've done in the past. This doing things at the last minute behind closed doors must stop."

But without spending cuts attached to the increase, Graham said he couldn't support the debt limit increase, no matter the urgency.

"I believe we need to raise the debt ceiling, but if we don't raise it without a plan to get out of debt, all of us should be fired," Graham said.

"If you raise the debt ceiling by a dollar, you should cut spending by a dollar. That is the way to go forward," he added.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic minority leader in the House of Representatives, said it didn't make sense to link spending with increasing the debt limit, since the debt had already been incurred.

"You're going to say, 'I'm not going to pay my bills unless you stop buying stuff?'" she wondered on CBS' "Face the Nation."

"Right now we have to pay the bills that have been incurred," she said. "If you want to say cut spending for what we do next, fine. But don't tie it to the debt ceiling."

CNNMoney's Jeanne Sahadi contributed to this report.

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.

Filed under: Debt • Economy • TV-State of the Union
soundoff (94 Responses)
  1. jpmichigan

    I hope they have the courage to really dig in and refuse to increase the debt limit unless they have significant spending cuts. Every time the pass a bill on the hill is loaded with more pork ( spending). Why can't they just pass a bill specific for what it is intended for? I know many will LOL at that thought, but for once do only what is intended, with no add on and PLEASE READ THE BILL BEFORE VOTING FOR IT!

    January 6, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  2. polnick

    Corrupt politicians are always complaining about the wasteful spending of federal revenues, but they are stealing trillions by their bogus hyperbole about the emergency need for massive funding of law enforcement agencies and national defense contractors. They want the public to tighten their belts when the politician’s bellies are touching the floor.

    January 6, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  3. labman57

    Hmmm. Let's examine the fiscal conservatives' logic with respect to the debt ceiling:

    The main objective of the intransigent Republican members of Congress is - allegedly - to curb wasteful government spending.
    So to meet that objective, they are threatening a repeat of last year's debt ceiling blockade which resulted in the U.S. being unable to pay its bills for the first time ever, thereby causing the nation's credit rating to take a major hit, which in turn led to higher interest rates for government borrowing, and finally, billions of dollars wasted as a result.

    Great idea.

    January 6, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  4. Tony

    People, if Republicans destroy the full faith and credit of the United States, which is what happens when the government defaults and cannot pay its bills, what good is the government's promise that it will pay your Social Security and Medicare benefits?

    January 6, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  5. Jerubbaal

    The GOP had no problem raising the debt ceiling 18 times during Reagan's two terms or with his record deficits. They had no problem raising the debt limit 7 times during W's two terms while he turned Clinton's surplus into record deficits with two unfunded wars, two unfunded tax breaks and an unfunded medicare part d which really put us in a hole when the banking and housing crises began due to their deregulation. The GOP are nothing more than spiteful, hateful, hypocritical people who cannot stand that the BLACK MAN has beaten them at every turn.

    January 6, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  6. Hillcrester

    Default crises and govt shutdowns worked out so badly for the GOP that I hope they blunder into one again.

    January 6, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  7. Facts don't Lie

    with the amount of bills these people have passed it may be time to stop calling them lawmakers

    January 6, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  8. Rick McDaniel

    The debate should consider an important indicator.......we weren't supposed to hit the ceiling until after the inauguration, and we hit it at the end of December.

    That is clearly spending out of control.

    January 6, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  9. independant jim

    shutting the Gov down did not work for republicans led by newt Gingrich in the past and Newt was a far better leader than Boehner

    January 6, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  10. Donkey Party

    14th Amendment, problem solved.

    January 6, 2013 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  11. DR

    It sure sounds reasonable that we should agree to raise our debt ceiling, as this is for money we have already spent. And, then we should address cutting our spending going forward. But, our representatives have continually shown they don't have the guts to do the severe hacking necessary to bring our spending into line with our revenues (which do need to increase, also–close loopholes first!). So, if we don't link the two and force people to get serious about closing the gap between revenues and spending, I have no faith that we will get it done. Yes, Dems have a rep for being big spenders, but Reps did a pretty good job when Bush was in office! Both parties seem to think the way to stay in power is to bring home the pork!

    January 6, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  12. poopmeister

    It will be time to cut tax loopholes for millionaires and cut the wasteful Pentagon budget that controls 57% of descretionary spending! They should not touch a red cent in the entitlement programs, they should focus on eliminating the waste and fraud within the programs that cause the real problems to ensure that the people that truly need these services do not sufer.

    January 6, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  13. Logic N LA

    Congress needs to learn its job and prioritize. Paying our bills is one issue. Paying downour debt is another. mixing the two is like trying to make a cake with motor oil.

    January 6, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  14. syntnw

    If republicans pull the same stunt as last time they should somehow be taken out of Congress, FIRED. If they hold Social Security, Medicare, and medicaid hostage again they should be FIRED. Can't wait for midterm to get the children, I could think of a better description, out of Congress.

    January 6, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  15. chris24

    bush recieved a free pass 7 out of 8 years from almost this same congress. (the other year, there was a surplus) Now, since a dem is in office, they make a big deal out of this as if the sky is falling.

    January 6, 2013 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  16. Willie12345

    In the past, Presidents have slashed budgets for all government departments by XX %. Isn't Obama capable of doing the same thing in order to resolve our debt problems ? $ 16 Trillion is a huge number and I don't want to pass it to my children or grandchildren.

    January 7, 2013 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  17. mike

    Excellent choice. He will not boot lick the Likud Lobby and will not allow us to waste our military and money on a boondoggle in Iran, who is nothing but a third world nation who isn't a threat to anyone.

    January 7, 2013 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  18. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    The Economist are still in the halls of colleges and universities, what we have in Washington is a bunch of lawyers and doctors at the helm of the World's largest economy and that doesn't make sense. As long as we keep sending these people to Washington we will always get the same results, Americans being held hostage because of our own doing.

    January 7, 2013 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  19. rs

    The Republicans need to learn 2 things:
    First, on the debt limit. The U.S. Constitution called upon Congress to pay the bills of the United States. In otherwords, this IS NOT a negotiation, it is an obligations. People who claim to revere the document would know this.

    Second, shutting down the government, delaying payment or making more idiotic threats will only result in the further degredation of the U.S.' credit rating, and furthering the general level of detest among Americans for the Republican culture of hate , greed and anti-Americanism. At some point, this intense dislike may take a greater form of action than not voting for them. This is what they need to learn. There are legal constructs for dealing with terrorists.

    January 7, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  20. Gurgyl

    Just do not cut spending at this time. Cut corporate welfare deduction loopholes. Tax code needs to be redone. Wise up. Work for electrifying PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM. Oil is way up causing not to spend by average Americans. Know. Energy efficiency–infrastructure, manufacture, Agriculture. Focus.

    January 7, 2013 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  21. rs

    Quite so. I would further your comments by stating that the GOP has no sincere desire to "curb wasteful spending" as we know how addicted they are to their particular brand of pork: oil company subsidies; tax cuts for the rich; and military contractors. What mkes their hypocrisy so gross is that they would keep their pork at the expense of the poor and elderly Americans they would kick to the curb. They built the debt and deficit so they could do just that. It almost makes you think Republicans are a sort of disease.

    January 7, 2013 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  22. Canuck

    End the wars and reduce the military – the answer to the debt problem is staring you right in the face America.

    January 7, 2013 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  23. rs

    Rick McDaniel-
    Maybe if those "principled" GOP leaders in the House actually did their job and passed a budget (that wasn't, how do we say...insane, then we would not have "out-of-control" spending. A tough call on your part as once again with a Democrat in the White House, the deficit is going DOWN. Admit it- your party is the problem.

    January 7, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  24. Anonymous

    The only real alternative to a media led frenzy of debt ceiling talks is to tune out and turn off coverage and work behind the scenes directly with congressionals through e-mails and direct phone calls. Lobbyist groups (as already evidenced in all media outlet comment sections) mislead, lie, obstruct, and blame. These folks are generally led by Fox News and right wing talk radio, and - bless them - have absolutely no clue what they are talking about, nor are they inclined to listen to reason. Right wing idealists are turning American into nothing more than a country of dead beat fools lead by a group of very wealthy clowns greasing the pockets of elected fools. All media (including CNN) are complicit in the deceit and gamesmanship geared not for the betterment of America, but solely for the betterment of whatever lobbyist group talking point fuels the day's discussion, and future revenue contracts. As evidenced by the recent fiscal cliff non stop media coverage of partisan innuendo, America's already extremely angry public has lost complete faith in a governing body more eager to mug for cameras than they are willing to sit down and make the difficult decisions necessary in moving our government and its people forward.

    January 7, 2013 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  25. True Republican

    As a long time republican its time to get our house in order.
    We need to take care of our debt, cut spending, make goverment smaller.
    So lets create a new medicare prescription plan that is unfunded.
    Start a couple of wars without a way to pay for them.
    Create a whole new goverment agency "Homeland Security" that does the same thing the Department of Defense is supposed to do,
    And cut everybody's taxes even if it creates record deficits...yea...thats what we republicans believe.

    January 7, 2013 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
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