Dems: Reagan was right about debt limit

House Democrats this week are invoking the words of an unlikely ally in the debt-ceiling debate: Ronald Reagan.

The former president, a paragon of fiscal responsibility to many conservatives, raised the debt ceiling 17 times during his presidency.

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The figure hasnt been lost on Democratic leaders, who at their weekly caucus meeting Tuesday played a video of a 1987 radio address in which Reagan urged Congress to quit playing politics and hike the debt limit.

Congress consistently brings the government to the edge of default before facing its responsibility, Reagan said. This brinkmanship threatens the holders of government bonds and those who rely on Social Security and veteran benefits.

Reagan also warned what effect congressional inaction would have on the global economy.

Interest rates would skyrocket, instability would occur in financial markets and the federal deficit would soar, Reagan cautioned. The United States has a special responsibility to itself and the world to meet its obligations. It means we have a well-earned reputation for reliability and credibility — two things that set us apart from much of the world.

House Republicans were expected to vote Tuesday on the "Cut, Cap and Balance" proposal, which would authorize a $2.4 trillion debt-ceiling hike only after Congress passes a balanced-budget amendment. Championed by the conservative Republican Study Committee, the proposal is being viewed as an opportunity for rank-and-rile Republicans to go on the record in favor of capping federal spending. The Democratic-controlled Senate is expected to kill the bill.

The Treasury Department said Congress needs to raise the $14.3 debt ceiling by Aug. 2 to avoid an economic catastrophe. 

Seventeen times Ronald Reagan raised the debt ceiling without the taking of any hostages, Rep. John Larson (Conn.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, told reporters Tuesday. Yes, there were political disagreements, as there always are. But at the end of the day, the country voted [in a bipartisan manner] to make sure we didnt put people on the brink.