A Capitol Hill source says that it would be acceptable for the “trillions” of dollars in spending cuts that House Speaker John Boehner demanded from the White House in a speech in New York City Monday night to be achieved over a five to ten year period.
Boehner took the ambitious stand in negotiations to raise America’s debt ceiling while speaking to the Economic Club of New York, saying, “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.”
While the Treasury Department has yet to specify exactly the size of the increase Congress will need to approve for the $14.3 trillion debt limit, estimates are currently settling in around $2 trillion. That means, according to Speaker Boehner, that the White House and congressional Democrats would have to agree to spending cuts equal to at least $2 trillion as well.
The only thing “off the table” is tax increases, said Boehner. Everything else — including entitlements — will be subject to spending cuts.
Noticeably absent from Boehner’s remarks, however, was a time frame for the spending cuts. Eliminating trillions of dollars from the budget by late summer is inconceivable. Having the trillions cut over 20 years, however, would do little to offset an increase in the debt limit.
When asked what time frame the Speaker is looking for in terms of the trillions in cuts he wants, Boehner spokesperson Michael Steel told The Daily Caller that “it’s impossible to say at this point,” citing the fact that the Treasury has not yet specified their request.
One Republican staffer, however, told TheDC, “I think what Boehner and the Republicans in general are projecting is an agreement to cut over a five to 10 year period as if we were in a budget cycle.”
But even beyond the time frame, the true test for Boehner’s risky pitch will be whether or not the cuts are passed simultaneously with the debt limit increase or beforehand, rather than the debt vote being hinged on a promise to make cuts sometime down the road.
According to the staffer, one option still on the table is for the debt vote to come in incremental stages, so members of Congress vote for a small raise in the limit with a simultaneous cut in spending as an offset. That scenario, however, runs the risk of scaring away the fiscally-hawkish freshmen class who may not want to vote ten times to raise the debt limit.
But while that option is still under consideration, “the five to 10 year period is what I understand is in play,” said the staffer.
Boehner’s remarks open him up to harsh criticism down the road if the budget cuts are not realized, especially since he failed to deliver on the $100 billion in cuts Republicans promised they would make in the first year in their “Pledge to America” issued during the midterm elections.
The Treasury has already warned that the government could default on its debt obligations August 2 if Congress does not vote to raise the debt ceiling.
In response to Boehner’s comments on the debt ceiling, the White House criticized the idea of tying the debt ceiling debate to necessary budget cuts.
“To hold hostage to the other remains extremely unwise,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney Tuesday afternoon.