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Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) office on Wednesday signaled another standoff after Treasury Secretary Jack Lew wrote a letter saying Congress will have to act by "late February" -- sooner than expected -- to raise the borrowing limit in order to avoid a potentially catastrophic default on U.S. debt.
"The Speaker has said that we should not default on our debt, or even get close to it, but a 'clean' debt limit increase simply won’t pass in the House," Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, told TPM in an email. "We hope and expect the White House will work with us on a timely, fiscally-responsible solution."
To any sane person, a "timely, fiscally-reponsible solution" is to eliminate the debt ceiling forever, or at a minimum to always raise it when you pass the budget that makes the debt legally inevitable. When you order the Executive to exact certain revenues, and to make certain expenditures, you have made it a matter of settled law that the debt shall be incurred.
The remarks echo those made recently by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) that congressional Republicans won't agree to a "clean" debt limit increase without policy add-ons or strings attached. It's unclear what they'll demand, though.
So Republicans in both houses of Congress intend to destroy the world economy unless they are given a prize for not doing so, and have said so in public.
Let us hope they are bluffing - but they are playing a dangerous game raising the expectations of their base yet again if they intend to fold if Obama calls their bluff.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters last week that Democrats' position is unchanged: lifting the debt ceiling is non-negotiable.
Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) demanded Wednesday that Republican agree to raise the debt limit "with no strings attached."
Once again, the nation nears a crisis because Republicans want to govern despite having lost the Presidency convincingly, lost seats in the Senate, and being outvoted overall in the collective House races.