Boehner Speaks On Debt Ceiling
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
Congress has until early August to raise the legal limit on how much money the government can borrow, and it's not likely to be an easy path from now to August. Investors are on edge about a possible debt default, as congressional Republicans demand huge spending cuts in return for raising the debt ceiling.
Last night, House Speaker John Boehner told investors in New York that spending cuts will have to be greater than the amount of new debt allowed.
NPR's David Welna has been gathering reaction on Capitol Hill.
DAVID WELNA: The conditions Speaker Boehner laid out last night for raising the debt limit got an enthusiastic amen today from the Senate's top Republican, Mitch McConnell. Like Boehner, McConnell declared himself more worried about the size of the debt than a default on the debt.
Senator MITCH McCONNELL (Republican, Kentucky): In our view, doing nothing about the debt would be far more dangerous in the long run than failing to raise the debt ceiling.
WELNA: Boehner told investors he wants about $2 trillion worth of spending cuts without specifying over how much time. North Carolina Republican Senator Richard Burr has doubts about where that money can be found.
Senator RICHARD BURR (Republican, North Carolina): If you eliminate 100 percent of discretionary money and 100 percent of the defense of the country, you're $200 billion shy of balance this year. So the takeaway is you can't get there by cuts.
WELNA: Burr and other Republicans say real deficit reduction can only happen if spending is curtailed on entitlements, including Social Security and Medicare.
Florida freshman Republican Senator Marco Rubio lamented that Democrats have blasted House Republicans for passing a budget that proposes turning Medicare into a voucher program 10 years from now.
Senator MARCO RUBIO (Republican, Florida): The people that are running around this building that pretend like there's not a problem, what they're basically saying to you is that their reelection is more important than Medicare - than saving Medicare. I disagree with them.
WELNA: Others prefer playing it safe. Tellingly, when Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey unveiled a 10-year GOP budget proposal today, he acknowledged it did not touch entitlement programs.
Senator PAT TOOMEY (Republican, Pennsylvania): Ultimately, we need to reform the Social Security program. We need to reform Medicare. But this budget represents what we think of as a necessary first step.
WELNA: Democrats for their part took a dimmer view of Boehner's deficit speech.
Senator CLAIRE McCASKILL (Democrat, Missouri): There is more hot air around this building about deficit reduction than any other topic right now.
WELNA: That's Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill. She introduced a bill today that would take away $21 billion in subsidies and tax breaks for the five largest U.S. oil companies over the next decade.
Sen. McCASKILL: And if we cannot end subsidies to the five biggest, most profitable corporations in the history of the planet that come from the federal taxpayer, then I don't think anyone should take us seriously about deficit reduction.
WELNA: And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid deplored Boehner's insistence that raising taxes to reduce the deficit is the one thing that's off the table for Republicans.
Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada): So we shouldn't be drawing lines in the sand. We should be willing to work together. And that - the fair way to do that is to cut spending, we know we have to do that, but also to make the tax code a little more fair.
WELNA: Reid said he hoped more common ground will be found through bipartisan budget talks that Vice President Joe Biden is leading. South Carolina Republican Senator Jim DeMint was a bit more skeptical of any historic global deal.
Senator JIM DEMINT (Republican, South Carolina): It will be historic, but it will be meaningless.
WELNA: Whatever deal emerges, it will have to be bipartisan if it's to pass both the GOP-controlled House and a Senate still run by Democrats.
David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.
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