Hoyer: No short-term hikes to debt ceiling

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday rejected a plan to hike the debt ceiling in short-term increments – a strategy endorsed recently by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). 

Hoyer said such temporary hikes would do little to alleviate uncertainty in the business community – uncertainty the business lobby says has discouraged new hiring amid a jobs crisis. 

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The Maryland Democrat is urging a debt-ceiling hike large enough to allow the government to borrow through the end of 2012. However, he conceded that a temporary increase is preferable to a government default if the ongoing budget negotiations don't bear fruit before the deadline.

Joined by Vice President Biden, negotiators from both parties will continue their talks this week in hopes of reaching a deal on a debt-ceiling increase. The Treasury Department has said the current cap would allow the government to pay its obligations until the first week of August.

McConnell said Sunday that Republicans are eying a strategy to buy the negotiators time through the August recess.

“If we can’t do something really significant about the debt ceiling, then we’ll probably end up with a very short-term proposal over a few months, and we’ll be back having the same discussion in the fall,” McConnell said on CBS's “Face the Nation.”

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Democrats have urged a clean debt-ceiling bill to finalize the issue quickly, while Republicans are insisting the vote be accompanied by "trillions" of dollars of cuts in long-term spending. 

Earlier in the month, the House defeated a clean debt-ceiling bill, with every Republican voting against the measure. A number of Democrats, including Hoyer, opposed the bill after it became clear it wouldn't pass. The Democrats accused GOP leaders of voting on the proposal – a tough political vote in many districts – just for the purpose of seeing it fail.

Hoyer said Tuesday that Democrats would eagerly support a clean bill "if it were serious."

Hoyer also reiterated the Democrats' warning that cutting too deeply while unemployment remains above 9 percent would do more harm than good.

"If you undermine the economy, you exacerbate the deficit problem," he said.

He suggested that the debt-ceiling hike be accompanied by modest spending cuts this summer, allowing Congress to focus on the tougher elements of the deficit-spending debate after the threat of default has been eliminated. 

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