WH balks at 'ideological ransom' for debt ceiling

The White House said Monday that President Obama would not pay "an ideological ransom" in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.

"The American people cannot — and the president will not on their behalf — pay an ideological ransom just so that Congress will do its job and pay the bills that Congress has racked up," White House press secretary Jay Carney said. "It's just irresponsible."

The comments came after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested over the weekend that the GOP wanted to "attach something significant for the country" — like the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline — to a debt limit increase.

“Any president's request to raise the debt ceiling, whether this one or previous presidents, is a good opportunity to try to do something about the debt. I think the president is taking an unreasonable position to suggest that we ought to treat his request to raise the debt ceiling like some kind of motherhood resolution that everybody says 'aye,' and we don't do anything, when we have the stagnant economy and this massive debt created under his administration,” McConnell told Fox News.

Earlier this month, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) also said Democrats would need to offer concessions to get a debt ceiling hike through the House.

"The Speaker has said that we should not default on our debt, or even get close to it, but a 'clean' debt limit increase simply won't pass in the House. We hope and expect the White House will work with us on a timely, fiscally responsible solution," Boehner aide Michael Steel said. 

In a letter to lawmakers on Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said Congress would likely need to raise the debt ceiling by late Feburary to avoid a potential default.

“I respectfully urge Congress to provide certainty and stability to the economy and financial markets by acting to raise the debt limit before February 7, 2014, and certainly before late February,” Lew wrote.

But the White House has said last year's government shutdown, when Republicans agreed to pass a short-term budget and reopen the government once the nation approached the debt limit, was evidence Republican threats were hollow.

"We saw this movie before, and a lot of Republicans — including senior Republican leaders on Capitol Hill — said after the shutdown and after that disastrous ideological effort that they would not go down that road again," Carney said. "So we certainly hope that that's the case."

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