Republicans tout spending caps as government hits debt limit

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"While some have suggested it will be catastrophic if Congress does not vote to increase the debt ceiling, I believe it will be more damaging if Congress allows this seminal moment to pass us by without finally getting our fiscal house in order," Corker said in a statement Monday. "Before the debt ceiling is raised, Congress must put in place an enforceable mechanism like the CAP Act to slash unsustainable spending."

Corker's plan would set a cap on discretionary and mandatory spending, which would eventually lower the current spending rate of 24.7 percent of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) to 20.6 percent. If lawmakers fail to meet that cap, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) would be required to make cuts throughout the federal budget to meet the prescribed limit.

Meanwhile, Kingston, who chairs the agriculture subcommittee on the House Appropriations Committee, said hitting the debt limit showed it was time to return to fiscal restraint.

"How can we achieve that?" Kingston's office wrote on his official blog. "By implementing the plan Jack introduced last week. ... It's common sense and it should be taken up immediately."

Kingston's plan would go even further than Corker's, capping spending at 18 percent of GDP. Like Corker's plan, it would also require OMB to make across-the-board cuts to get spending to meet that cap if lawmakers cannot. Both proposals would require a two-thirds majority in Congress to override the caps.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner informed Congress on Monday that he was cutting back investments in two government employee pension funds as the government entered a "debt issuance suspension period" due to hitting the debt limit. He also used the opportunity to reiterate his call on Congress to raise the debt ceiling quickly, so as to avoid "catastrophic economic consequences."