WASHINGTON — In the first closed-door meeting of the Republican majority in the new Congress, newly re-elected House Speaker John Boehner on Friday promised a robust fight with President Obama to cut spending in exchange for raising the nation’s debt limit.
The Ohio Republican doubled down on his insistence that there must be at least a dollar-per-dollar match between spending reductions and continued borrowing.
“With the cliff behind us, the focus turns to spending,” Boehner said, according to a source in the room. “The president says he isn’t going to have a debate with us over the debt ceiling. He also says he’s not going to cut spending along with the debt limit hike.”
On the heels of the divisive “fiscal cliff” battle over the automatic tax increases and spending cuts that briefly went into effect at the beginning of the year, Boehner is launching a new budget fight.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner notified Congress earlier this week that the nation has already hit its $16 trillion debt limit, and Congress will be asked soon to raise the borrowing authority to continue paying the nation’s bills. Geithner can take temporary measures to pay creditors for several weeks.
Without lifting the debt limit, the federal government would face a cataclysmic default on it already accrued obligations — akin to stopping payments on a mortgage or credit card debt.
Boehner and his GOP allies in the Senate, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., are setting up a repeat of the budget wars that defined the last Congress, and led to a cycle of brinkmanship and crisis.
McConnell made similar remarks in the Senate as the new Congress was sworn in.
In convening rank-and-file Republicans on Friday morning, a day after the new Congress began its session, the speaker also released new polling from a Republican-aligned firm that showed overwhelming public support for Boehner’s demand of a 1-to-1 ratio of cuts to new borrowing.
The Winston Group poll found 72 percent support for the so-called Boehner principle.
Past polling, however, has shown public enthusiasm for spending cuts wane as specific programs — including health care, transportation and education — are targeted for cuts, as they have been by Republicans in the past, particularly under the austerity budget from Rep. Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., the former vice presidential nominee.
Boehner launched the opening bid after having narrowly won re-election as speaker despite defections from 10 conservatives, who make up the majority of the House GOP.