Freshman Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) on Monday rejected President Obama's argument that increasing the debt ceiling allows the U.S. to pay its bills.
"President Barack Obama says we need to pay our bills. I agree," he wrote in an op-ed for the Lexington Herald-Leader. "But raising our debt limit without reform is not paying our bills. It is asking China, bond holders and other creditors to pay our bills."
Barr said he voted against legislation to re-open the government and extend the debt ceiling into early next year because the bill did nothing to reform government or control spending. He said the absence of these ingredients means Congress has simply delayed a default.
After signed the debt ceiling bill into law last week, Obama said the law allows the government to "pay America's bills." He also argued that failing to take that step would only increase the country's debt.
"We know that just the threat of default — of America not paying all the bills that we owe on time — increased our borrowing costs, which adds to our deficit," he said.
Republicans were criticized during the shutdown and debt-ceiling debate for trying to focus on repealing or undermining ObamaCare. But Barr said the healthcare law will add billions in additional spending, and that it needs to be part of the discussion.
He cited a Congressional Budget Office study saying the law will cost nearly $2 trillion over the next two years, and predicted that those costs will rise as the law is changed.
"[T]he true cost will only continue to grow because its funding mechanisms — cuts to Medicare, reductions in payments to our rural hospitals, punitive taxes on medical innovation and other sources of revenue — are not sustainable and will be repealed," he wrote.
Barr's comments are just the latest sign of the difficulties Republicans and Democrats may face as they meet to figure out 2014 spending levels. The bill Congress passed last week requires budget conferees to meet and try to reach a spending agreement by mid-December.
But while Republicans are talking about the need for spending cuts, Democrats are talking about tax increases, reflecting the intractable split seen in Congress for nearly three years.