White House opening position on debt ceiling set

In comments first made to the Financial Times and confirmed by OMB, OMB Director Jack Lew said that “our view is a clean debt bill is the only responsible thing to advocate — and we’re clearly going to have to engage in Congress on this.”

Lew went on to say “we have no alternative but to raise the debt ceiling and it would be irresponsible to use the need to raise the debt limit as a way to force a crisis that could undermine the US economy and its standing in the world very severely.”

Last week, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner sent a letter to all members of Congress requesting a raising of the $14.3 billion debt limit. The limit is likely to be reached between March and May. He said that failure to do so could have disastrous consequences.

Congressional Republican leadership plans to use the debt ceiling to seek deep cuts to non-security discretionary spending, and is in the process of deciding whether to tie additional demands to this vote. Options include everything from repeal of the healthcare reform bill to adoption of a multi-year deficit reduction plan that includes statutory caps on spending to reform of Social Security and Medicare.