Two of the top Congressional Democrats today emphasised that any deal to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff” must also address the debt ceiling, which will need to be raised by February.The top two Democratic Sens. leading the cliff negotiations — Nevada Sen. Harry Reid and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin — both said that the ceiling is an issue that needs to be tackled in any upcoming deal.
The fiscal cliff, of course, hits Jan. 2, when numerous tax increases and spending cuts kick in. According to a report today from the Bipartisan Policy centre, the debt ceiling will have to be raised by February — and perhaps sooner.
According to Slate’s Matt Yglesias, Durbin told reporters today at the centre for American Progress in Washington that a “grand bargain” would need to address the debt ceiling.
“The President isn’t going to sign off on any agreement that doesn’t include some certainty as to budgets, appropriations, dealing with our debt ceiling,” Durbin said. “We’re not going to find ourselves at some big party celebrating in February and then turn around in March and have another doomsday scenario with the debt ceiling. We’ve got to get this done as one big package.”
Later, while speaking with reporters, Reid echoed Durbin’s sentiments. His comments, via The Hill:
“We would be somewhat foolish to work out something on stopping us from going over the cliff and then a month or six weeks later Republicans pull the same game they did before and say, ‘We’re not going to do anything — unless this happens, we’re not going to agree to increasing the debt ceiling,’ ” Reid said.
“I agree with the president, it has to be a package deal,” he added.
Reid also said, however, that he was “disappointed” with the overall progress of the talks, which sent markets down.
Both Reid and Durbin suggested that President Barack Obama shares their position, though he has yet to signal that publicly. In a recent interview with Bloomberg TV, though, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said he would favour an elimination of the ceiling. But he said that would be decided by Congress.
“Well, you know, this is only — something only Congress can solve. Congress put it on itself. We’ve had 100 years of experience with it. And I think only once, last summer, did people decide to use it to threaten default on the American credit for the first time in history as a tool for political advantage. And that’s not — that’s not a tenable strategy for the country,” Geithner said.
This post has been updated.
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