U.S. House Speaker John Boehner said on Thursday that any move to increase the United States' $14.3 trillion debt limit must be accompanied by spending cuts.
"The American people will not stand for such an increase unless it is accompanied by meaningful action by the President and Congress to cut spending and end the job-killing spending binge in Washington," Boehner said in a prepared statement.
Boehner is doing his best to pretend that he has a strong hand, but let's not forget, if he were to actually carry out his threat and block an increase in the debt limit, the United States would go into default on its debt. Not only would it create severe credit crisis, it would also force the shutdown of most of the Federal government. So unless Boehner's absolutely insane, he's running a complete bluff.
Even if he is bluffing, Boehner's declaration raises the stakes. House Republicans have pledged a twenty percent reduction in non-defense discretionary spending. That's never going to happen, nor will anything close to it. But Boehner continues to fuel the expectations of his base that it will.
If Boehner ultimately goes along with a hike in the debt limit without securing the spending cuts that he promised to the tea party, teahadists will be furious. On the other hand, if Boehner decides to block the debt limit increase, sending the United States into default and shutting down the federal government, the rest of the country will be even angrier.
For Boehner, the only way out of this is to level with his base and tell them that the full faith and credit of the United States is not a political football, and that the battles to enact their agenda should be fought on other fields. Given his support for TARP, that's probably what he believes. But as long as he panders to them, he's playing with fire.