Boehner Promises ‘Real Cuts and Real Reforms’ in Upcoming Debt Limit Fight

By Matt Cover | May 15, 2012 | 6:33 PM EDT

House Speaker John Boehner speaks at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s 2012 fiscal summit in Washingon on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 (AP Photo)

( – House Speaker John Boehner promised Tuesday that he would settle for nothing less than “real cuts and real reforms” in exchange for agreeing to raise the debt ceiling later this year. He said he would stick to the “principle” that spending cuts should exceed the debt limit increase.

“We can make the bold cuts and reforms necessary to meet this principle, and we must,” Boehner (R-Ohio) said at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s fiscal summit in Washington.

“So, just so we’re all clear, I’m talking about real cuts and real reforms, not the tricks and gimmicks that have given Washington a pass on grappling with this spending problem,” he said.

Boehner said he would use the debt ceiling increase as an “action-forcing event” to wring spending cuts and budget reforms out of the White House and Democrats in Congress.

“We shouldn’t dread the debt limit. We should welcome it. It’s an action-forcing event in a town that has become infamous for inaction,” he said. “When the time comes, I will again insist on my simple principle of cuts and reforms greater than the debt limit increase. This is the only avenue I see right now to force the elected leadership of this country to solve our structural fiscal imbalance.”

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While the debt ceiling will not need to be increased until sometime after the elections Boehner said there was no reason Congress could not begin working on the issue now, adding that the House would take action on the issue before November.

“We can’t wait [until November],” Boehner said. “It’s why the House will do its part to ease the uncertainty surrounding this fiscal cliff.”

The “fiscal cliff” is the Washington term for the end of 2012 confluence of tax hikes, draconian spending cuts, and reaching the debt limit.

If Congress does nothing, the Bush tax cuts will expire and the steep, defense-heavy budget cuts known as sequestration will be automatically enacted. Also, the government is projected to reach the debt limit towards the end of the year, presenting Congress with a major, politically-charged crisis.

Asked about Boehner’s remarks about debt ceiling increases being offset by spending cuts, White House press secretary Jay Carney told Tuesday’s briefing, “It can’t possibly be the case that the right prescription for what we need to do right now is to engage in the kind of political brinksmanship that, unfortunately, congressional Republicans engaged in last year.”

“So we're not going to do that,” he said. “It wouldn’t be good for our economy.”

Boehner in his speech said he hoped President Obama does not lose his “courage” this time around. Boehner said he had been close to making a multi-trillion budget reform deal last summer, but that Obama scuttled it by demanding tax increases.

“The difference between knowing what’s right and doing what’s right is courage,” he said. “And the president, I’m sorry to say, lost his courage.”

“We were on the verge of an agreement that would have reduced the deficit by trillions of dollars by strengthening entitlement programs, reforming the tax code with permanently lower rates for all, and laying the foundation for lasting economic growth.”

Boehner said that such a deal would once again be on the table, and encouraged Obama to take him up on his offer.

“I’m ready, and I’ve been ready,” he said. “I haven’t come this far just to walk away.”

During the last debt ceiling negotiations, Boehner and Obama failed to reach an agreement on sweeping fiscal reforms to everything from entitlement programs to tax reform. Instead, leaders in both parties settled for the Budget Control Act, which capped spending at fiscal-year 2010 levels and established a congressional committee tasked with finding more savings and reforms.

That “Super Committee” failed to agree on further reforms, triggering automatic cuts to defense and social spending – which Boehner and others have included as part of the “fiscal cliff” of impending tax and spending crises.

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