His take puts him at odds with Congressional Republicans, who appear focused on buying as much time as possible to haggle over the limit. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) indicated last week that the debt limit debate will wait until after Tax Day in April, and Republicans in both chambers are pushing legislation that would avert a default on U.S. debt if the debt limit is reached.
Holtz-Eakin, now president of the American Action Forum, acknowledged that the debt limit debate can be a prickly one for Republicans. GOP leadership has acknowledged that the limit must be raised at some point, but it is unpopular with the public, and voting to increase the amount of debt the nation can issue appears to run counter to campaign promises to rein in the deficit.
But he contends that if Republicans are quick to act on the debt limit, and pair it with spending cuts, they will be able to change the landscape of the debate to focus on the "friendly turf" of those cuts.
However, he makes clear that failing to raise the limit is not an option, a theme echoed by the Obama administration.
"A debt-limit increase is ultimately not a statement about the future. It is a reflection of the past," he said. "Failing to raise the limit in a timely fashion courts international financial volatility at odds with pro-growth policies and a pledge to be efficient managers of government functions."
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner warned lawmakers in January that failing to increase the debt limit before it is hit sometime this spring would be "catastrophic" for the economy and "deeply irresponsible."