Carney: WH won’t pay ‘ransom’ to GOP

The White House said on Thursday it would “not pay a ransom” for an extension of the debt ceiling, after Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) vented that Congress wouldn’t even agree to attach sainthood for Mother Teresa to a debt-ceiling bill.

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“We certainly believe Republican leaders who say that we have to raise the debt ceiling. It's the responsibility of Congress to ensure that bills that have already been incurred are paid in a timely fashion, so that the United States doesn't default,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

“Our position, the president's position, is what it has been for a long time, which is that we are not going to pay ransom in return for Congress fulfilling this basic responsibility.”

Carney would not say whether the White House was heartened by recent reports that House Republicans had been unable to find a policy priority — like automatic approval for the Keystone XL pipeline — that they could agree upon internally as a condition for hiking the debt ceiling.

“I think there’s been a lot of reporting about those discussions, so I’m not going to characterize that,” Carney said.

Earlier Thursday, Boehner admitted that Republicans had struggled to figure out a path to raising the $16.7 trillion debt-ceiling limit. The Treasury Department has said lawmakers need to act by late February to avoid default.

“You know, Mother Teresa is a saint now, but if Congress wanted to make her a saint, and attach that to the debt ceiling, we probably couldn’t get 218 votes for it,” Boehner said.

“We’re still looking for the pieces to this puzzle,” he continued. “But listen, we do not want to default on our debt, and we’re not going to default on our debt.”

Carney also declined to say whether a procedural sidecar would again be acceptable. Last year, “No Budget, No Pay” language forced the Senate to pass a budget, but required no budget concessions.

“Our position is the same as it was last time, the same as it was last fall: no ransom,” Carney said. “How leaders on Capitol Hill figure out a way forward is up to them, but we’re not going to pay a ransom.”