By Alexander Bolton - 07/28/11 07:03 PM EDT
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) declared Thursday that Senate Democrats would be responsible for a national default if they defeat a House plan to raise the debt limit.
Cantor starkly laid out the options: Either the Senate passes the House debt-limit legislation or the nation will likely default.
Cantor, the House Republicans’ second-ranking leader, took a tougher stance than House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who earlier Thursday declined to deliver any ultimatum.
Boehner implored the Senate to take up his debt-limit bill but refused to say whether it would be the final offer from the House before the Aug. 2 deadline to avoid a default.
“We have a reasonable, responsible bill that was put together with the bipartisan leadership of the United States Senate, and I would hope that [the Senate] would take it up,” Boehner told reporters.
“There is no reason for them to say no,” Boehner said. “It is time for somebody in this town to say yes.”
Cantor said the House plan to raise the debt ceiling by $900 billion, which the lower chamber will consider Thursday evening, is a compromise plan based on Democratic demands.
In a letter to Boehner, all 53 members of the Senate Democratic Conference pledged to defeat it.
Cantor said Reid would bear the responsibility for endangering the national economy if he blocks the bill in the upper chamber, and implied that House Republicans are not willing to compromise further on their demands for steep spending cuts to match any increase of the debt limit dollar for dollar.
“This is a compromise piece of legislation that was negotiated between the Speaker and bipartisan leadership in the Senate, and so Harry Reid’s got a choice to make,” Cantor said Thursday afternoon. “Either he will go ahead and accept a compromise or he’s going to bring on default, something I hope he doesn’t do.”
Cantor tried to portray a possible national default after Aug. 2 as entirely in Senate Democrats’ hands if the House Speaker manages to pass his revised plan through the lower chamber.
“He continues to talk about the consequences and the economic damage that will occur if we go past Tuesday,” Cantor said. “He’ll have to deal with that. I hope he doesn’t choose that. Because in this bill there are things we don’t like.”
Cantor noted that Republicans have made concessions to Democrats in the House plan, such as the creation of a select, joint committee to assemble a $1.8 trillion deficit-reduction package at the end of the year.
The GOP plan also includes $17 billion in funding for Pell Grants in 2012 and 2013, something that is unpopular with conservatives.
“The joint select committee is something that came from the Democrats,” Cantor said. “We don’t have all the cuts we like in this bill, but we’re willing to compromise.”
— Russell Berman contributed to this report.