Speaker Boehner calls for debt-ceiling deal by the end of June

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Wednesday that he wants to strike a deal on the nation’s debt limit over the next month.

Boehner’s comments could change the timetable for a bipartisan agreement, which many lawmakers and Wall Street analysts had previously assumed would not be ironed out until right before the August congressional recess. 

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His statements could also be an attempt to shield the GOP from blame if the stock market plunges next month in the absence of a deal. 

In a press briefing with reporters, Boehner said that waiting until later in the summer could negatively affect financial markets. He claimed an agreement “needs to be done over the next month.”

He added that he told President Obama just that at a White House meeting earlier on Wednesday. Boehner said the the president told House Republicans Wednesday that he wants a deal as soon as possible. For the past several months, administration officials -- including Obama -- have been urging Congress to move swiftly.

The Ohio Republican said there is no need to wait for “a magical date,” asserting he is “ready to get on with it.”

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has set an Aug. 2 deadline to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, after which Geithner says the government will default.

Geithner and Obama have warned against an eleventh-hour deal, Boehner noted, and he said he concurs. 

“There’s no reason to bump up against [Aug. 2],” he said, predicting a deal would be reached if “we’re serious about no brinksmanship and no rattling investors … I’m ready to get it done this month.”

The remarks suggest that the debt-ceiling talks could be much different from the government-shutdown showdown in April. Those negotiations went to the brink before an agreement was finalized 90 minutes before the government was scheduled to shutter. 

Still, Boehner claims that some of the fears circulating in Washington and beyond about the debt-limit talks are unfounded: “Nobody out there believes the United States will default on its debt.” 

Boehner reiterated on a couple occasions that any deal must have major spending reductions and not raise taxes. He hinted that a balanced-budget amendment could be in the mix, as well as “budget reforms,” declining to go into specifics.

The Ohio Republican is worried about the economy, saying “it was improving,” but that high gas prices, high food prices and recent economic figures have given him pause. 

“I am concerned,” he said.

“We’re not going to solve America’s problems by cutting spending alone. You have to have real economic growth,” Boehner said, citing uncertainty about tax rates and government regulations. 

During the roundtable discussion with the media in his Speaker’s office, Boehner cracked a few jokes, but also chose his words carefully and answered some questions after long pauses.

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Despite the GOP’s loss in a special election last week that focused on Medicare, Boehner expressed optimism that the popular entitlement program will be addressed in the debt-ceiling debate.

He said Medicare has been discussed in the bipartisan discussions led by Vice President Biden.

Pressed on why Democrats won in New York’s 26th district, Boehner said GOP candidate Jane Corwin let herself be defined by the Democrats, a third-party candidate siphoned votes from Corwin and her campaign handled the Medicare attacks from the other side of the aisle “poorly.”

Boehner emphasized, however, that Medicare was not the defining issue of the special-election race.

He acknowledged that House Republicans must improve their communications on the Medicare plan that was included in their House-passed budget. 

“We have to engage. We have to be on offense,” Boehner said. 

He also said GOP “members need to engage in this” and “explain [the Medicare plan].”

Obama has made some pretty “outrageous claims” on the Republican plan, Boehner said, lamenting the “demagoguery” in Washington. He disputed assertions that Republicans engaged in similar tactics during the last Congress when they criticized Obama’s healthcare reform bill. 

“It’s got to start from the top … there’s a way of disagreeing without being disagreeable,” Boehner said.

But, in the end, Boehner conceded, “All’s fair in politics.”


—This article was updated at 10:11 p.m.