House GOP leaders seize on S&P shift to call for more cuts

Top House Republicans are using Standard & Poor’s new outlook on U.S. debt to both call for more action from Democrats on deficit reduction and to reiterate their demand that any raising of the debt ceiling be paired with measures that rein in federal spending.

In a Monday statement, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the House majority leader, said S&P — which announced it was revising its outlook on American debt from “stable” to “negative” — had given Washington officials a wake-up call and that Republicans would not sign off on any debt limit increase that was not accompanied by “serious reforms.”

ADVERTISEMENT
“For decades, Washington has blindly increased the debt limit while doing little to stop spending money that it doesn’t have, a dangerous pattern that must end,” Cantor said. “As S&P made clear, getting spending and our deficit under control can no longer be put off for another day.”

For his part, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the House Budget Committee chairman, contrasted the fiscal 2012 budget he largely crafted with that of President Obama, while also calling for more concrete action from the White House on deficit reduction.

“The failure to advance solutions threatens not only the livelihoods of future generations, but also the economic security of American families today,” Ryan said in a statement. “The president and his party's leaders must put an end to empty promises and work with us to avert this looming economic crisis.”

The statements from Cantor and Ryan appear to illustrate that the S&P announcement has done little to change the partisan divide in Washington over deficit reduction. 

Also on Monday, Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), who is leading a group of House Democrats calling for a clean debt-ceiling hike, called on Cantor to stop what he termed “playing brinksmanship with the debt ceiling.” The Treasury Department has predicted that the federal government will clear the current ceiling around May 16, and, without congressional action, would start defaulting on its debt in early July. 

Meanwhile, Austan Goolsbee, a top White House economic adviser, came at the S&P announcement from a different angle than Ryan, saying that Republicans and Democrats were not that far off when it came to the size of their long-term budget visions, even if the two sides did have differences over exactly how to rein in deficits.  

The president’s vision, outlined last week, relies on a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. The House GOP budget favors hard spending caps and assumes that all of the Bush tax cuts will be extended. 

Other Republican lawmakers — like Rep. Scott Garrett of New Jersey and Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois — have also issued releases calling for either raising the debt ceiling with conditions or for Democrats to get more serious about deficit reduction.