House Majority Leader Cantor Won’t Say How Much Additional Federal Debt He’d Support

By Christopher Goins | April 12, 2011 | 9:20 PM EDT

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.)

Washington ( – As Congress continues to debate and prepare for a vote on raising the federal debt ceiling beyond its current limit of $14.29 trillion, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) would not say how much additional federal debt he is willing to support.

At his weekly press briefing on Tuesday, asked Cantor, “How much additional debt are you willing to authorize?”

Cantor said: “My response to the question is only going to rely on the fact that we are only – only -- talking about even doing this if we can be assured there are guarantees in place that the spending doesn’t get out of control again. That’s what the American people are expecting us to do here. It is to do what they would do.”

The debt ceiling, or debt limit, is the amount of debt the U.S. Treasury is legally allowed to hold outstanding. To take on more debt, the Congress must vote to raise that limit and the president must sign the measure into law. According to the U.S. Treasury, the federal government likely will reach the current debt limit of $14.29 trillion on May 16 -- a date that Treasury says it possibly could postpone to July 8 at the latest.  Congress is expected to vote on the debt ceiling sometime between those two dates.

Before last year's vote to raise the debt ceiling, on Feb. 4, 2010, Cantor had said it was "beyond comprehension" and "a travesty" to talk about the raising the legal debt limit to $14.294 trillion.

At his briefing on Tuesday, Cantor told reporters that he would vote for raising the statutory debt ceiling, if Congress demonstrated it would not go on a federal spending binge again.

“If you need to extend the limit [on your credit card] and your bank or credit card issuer will actually let you do that, you have to be able to demonstrate you’re not going to dig the same hole for yourself again,” Cantor said.

“That’s what we are talking about here, is making sure we stop digging the hole of debt and reverse that trend,” said Cantor. “And we need to do so in a way that demonstrates and puts on the books some brakes, so that Congress doesn’t get out of control again with spending.”

However, Cantor warned that Republicans will not go along with raising the debt limit if the White House  plans to push more federal spending. The current, legally set debt ceiling is $14.294 trillion, passed by Congress and then signed into law on Feb. 12, 2010.

“Let me give notice to the White House that blindly raising the debt limit without implementing real reforms is irresponsible and will simply burden our children with more debt.” Cantor said.

Cantor told reporters that he plans to have the debt ceiling discussion over months, not days.

President Barack Obama speaks to reporters at the White House after meeting with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., regarding the budget and possible government shutdown on Wednesday night, April 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

The debt limit has been raised ten times since 2001.

On September 29, 2007, then-President Bush signed legislation (H.J. Res 43) that raised the debt limit from $8.97 trillion to $9.82 trillion.

Because of the recession and subsequent higher deficits, Congress voted to raise the debt limit numerous times between 2008 and 2010.

Becoming law on July 30, 2008, the Housing and Economic Recovery Reinvestment Act of 2008 included a debt limit increase. Signed immediately after the financial panic in late September 2008, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 included a debt limit increase as well.

Under President Obama, the debt limit increased after the passage of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009, which raised the debt limit to $12.1 trillion. It increased again after the automatic passage of H.J. Res 45 to $13.029 trillion in 2009.

On February 12, 2010, the President signed the amended version of H.J. Res. 45, raising the debt limit to $14.294 trillion.