Boehner: 'Zero' Chance Obama Would've Given Bush Unlimited Borrowing Power

By Elizabeth Harrington | December 13, 2012 | 1:04 PM EST


(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

( House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said there was “zero” chance that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and then-Sen. Barack Obama would have supported giving President George W. Bush the power to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling, as they propose giving the chief executive today.

When negotiating to avert looming across-the-board tax hikes and spending cuts at the end of the year President Obama has asked for permanent and unilateral authority to raise the debt limit, in addition to calls for a $1.6 trillion tax increase.

If the player does not load, please check that you are running the latest version of Adobe Flash Player.

During his weekly press conference on Capitol Hill Thursday, Boehner was asked if united support from Democrats, including Reid to the president’s proposal would complicate his efforts next year in the House.

“Do you think that Senator Reid or then-Senator Obama would have ever given to President George W. Bush the unlimited ability to raise the debt limit?” Boehner said.

“They’re talking about doing it now,” a reporter replied.

“I know they’re talking about doing it now,” Boehner said, jokingly. “Do you think there’s any chance that Senator Reid or then-Senator Obama would have done that?”

“Zero!” he said.

“Congress is never going to give up our ability to control the purse,” Boehner said.  “And the fact is that the debt limit ought to be used to bring fiscal sanity to Washington, D.C.”

Boehner has advocated using the debt ceiling, which currently stands at $16.394 trillion and is expected to be met near the end of the year, as a bargaining chip in the fiscal cliff negotiations to obtain dollar-for-dollar cuts in spending. As of the close of business Tuesday, the total public debt stood at $16.376 trillion, leaving less than $20 billion before the ceiling is met.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he is opposed to involving the debt limit in the negotiations, because it is "not real.”

“If this were real, I would agree that the Congress ought not to give up its authority to do that,” Hoyer said Tuesday.

“But Congress does ultimately have the authority to do it, obviously; demonstrably it has that authority, but no one believes – not Mitch McConnell, not John Boehner, not Eric Cantor, ‘cause I’ve talked to all of them. Certainly, none of us believe that America’s defaulting on our debt makes sense.”

The Constitution expressly gives the power to borrow money only to Congress – not the president. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 2 says: "Congress shall have power ... To borrow money on the credit of the United States."