Party leaders refuse to budge on debt positions

WASHINGTON — Republicans and Democrats are refusing to budge when it comes to their already hardened positions on spending cuts versus tax increases to deal with the nation’s debt.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., both said Sunday that when Congress is asked to raise the nation’s borrowing cap after the election, they’ll insist on spending cuts to offset the increase. Democratic leaders countered that the GOP stance was irresponsible, given that the partisan showdown over the debt ceiling last year caused a downgrading of the U.S. government’s credit rating.

“If the president is going to ask us to raise the debt ceiling, and he will early next year, we do need to have another serious discussion about trying to do something significant about the deficit and the debt,” McConnell said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Both sides showed they had little appetite for compromise last week, when Boehner insisted at a meeting with President Barack Obama on Wednesday that he would seek spending cuts to offset an increase in the nation’s borrowing limit. Obama warned he wouldn’t accept more cuts without also extracting tax increases on the wealthiest Americans.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” said that Boehner “wants to go over the edge.”

“My response to what the speaker said is, `Here we go again.’ This is not a responsible, mature, sensible place for us to go,” Pelosi said. “There has to be more reductions but we have to have revenue and have to have growth.”

The most obvious showdown will happen soon after the Nov. 6 election. Unless a lame-duck Congress can strike a deal, the economy will suffer a double whammy of large tax increases and spending cuts starting Jan. 1. The tax increases would hit virtually every working American and the spending cuts would affect both military and domestic programs.

On top of that, perhaps by late January or so, Congress and the president — be it Obama or Republican Mitt Romney — will again confront the need to raise the country’s borrowing limit or else trigger a first-ever government failure to pay its debts.

Boehner, on ABC’s “This Week,” said Congress should begin tackling those issues now.

“Why do we wanna wait and rush this through at the end of the year, after the election?” Boehner said.

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