By Mike Lillis - 07/12/11 08:45 PM EDT
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday hammered Republican leaders for claims that support for a debt-ceiling increase represents a GOP concession to Democrats.
“The reason we need to increase the debt is because [increasing] the credit-worthiness of the United States of America is in the best interest of every American,” Hoyer told reporters in the Capitol. “So I reject out of hand, categorically and emphatically that somehow [Republicans] are giving us this [vote].”
“I don't think the White House understands how difficult it is for fiscal conservatives to say they are going to vote for a debt-ceiling increase,” Cantor said.
Hoyer was quick to note that Cantor voted four times to hike the debt ceiling during the George W. Bush administration and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has voted for a debt-limit hike no fewer than eight times in his congressional career.
“For Mr. Cantor to say it was a major concession by the Republicans to sit down at the table to discuss getting an agreement is an extraordinary comment to be made in a democracy,” Hoyer charged. “Clearly, the American public expects us to do just that.”
Hoyer also highlighted that most of the nation's $14.3 trillion debt was racked up while Republican presidents were in office, and he slammed GOP leaders — particularly House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — for suggesting the nation's debt burden was mostly the fault of Democrats.
“Almost every honest economist and observer points out that the debt that we are confronting has largely been incurred under Republican administrations,” Hoyer said.
Ronald Reagan, for instance, inherited roughly $910 billion in debt, and took it to $2.6 trillion (a 186 percent increase) over eight years, according to the Treasury Department. The departments figures show that George W. Bush inherited almost $5.7 trillion and increased it to more than $10.6 trillion, a jump of 86 percent over two terms.
“It's both arrogant and insulting that their compromise is that they'll raise the debt ceiling for the debt that they created,” Rep. John Larson (Conn.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said Tuesday.
Leaders from both parties met with President Obama on Tuesday afternoon at the White House in an effort to break the stalemate over the debt-limit talks. The impasse surrounds the issue of tax revenue, which Democrats are insisting be raised, while Republicans are equally adamant they should not.
Hoyer on Tuesday warned that Democrats would oppose a package that relied solely on spending cuts to reduce deficits.
“They ought not to expect us to support that,” Hoyer said.
That statement is significant, considering that GOP leaders are expected to need dozens of Democratic votes to pass a debt-ceiling bill through the lower chamber.
Cantor said Republicans had been more than willing to make sacrifices during the debt talks. Aside from agreeing to vote on raising the debt limit, he said the entitlement cuts favored by many Republicans were evidence that his caucus was willing to share any political fallout surrounding the package.
“These are tough votes for everybody,” Cantor said. “Nobody relishes the opportunity to go and cut these programs.”