Republican House Speaker John Boehner warned top Wall Street officials in New York City that restless American voters will not tolerate less than “trillions” in spending cuts before Congress agrees to raise the debt ceiling, the first GOP bid in a pending high-stakes negotiation over the politically painful vote.
The Ohio Republican alluded to the Tea Party that swept his party into control of the House, saying rampant federal deficits and government overreach have triggered a political “rebellion” that demands steep, “draconian” cuts.
“Washington’s arrogance has triggered a political rebellion in our country. I don’t think ‘rebellion’ is too strong of a word. The revolt we have seen by ordinary citizens over the past few years is like nothing we’ve seen in our lifetime. And it’s happening in part because the arrogant habits of Washington are having real economic consequences,” Boehner said in a speech at the Economic Club of New York Monday.
Asked about the sheer size of the cuts necessary to balance the budget given rampant deficits, Boehner said, “The cuts that you point out, you’re right, they’re draconian. But we have to have controls on spending,” adding that with increased economic growth, “we can solve this problem.”
Boehner said 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,” Boehner said.
The specific demand that the spending cuts more than offset the size of the new debt authority is the first detailed GOP position on what Democrats must concede to acquire the GOP’s support for a debt ceiling increase in the House and are a departure from the process-oriented reforms that had been discussed previously, such as a balanced budget amendment.
But what Boehner, President Obama and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid ultimately agree on is still up to the resultant negotiations. Boehner notably did not use absolute language – saying the cuts “should” be in his preferred range – allowing him room to maneuver later.
Boehner insisted several times during the speech that tax increases are “off the table.”
But the GOP Speaker said he supports “means testing” entitlement programs – changing the programs so that they no longer provide services for the wealthy.
Referring to Peter Peterson, the head of a foundation that pushes deficit reduction and one of two officials asking questions of Boehner, the Speaker said, “I gotta tell you, Pete, I love you to death, but I don’t think the taxpayers ought to be paying your Medicare premium….We’re broke. For those who have substantial means, you can pay your own premium.”
Boehner said the Ways and Means Committee will be considering tax reform, and offered several proposals to cut regulations and red tape, including legislation that would require congressional approval for any “major” new regulation, major being defined as one that costs over $100 million annually.