- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 15, 2011

House Speaker John A. Boehner said Sunday he is ready to strike a deal with the White House on raising the nation’s debt limit but questioned whether President Obama was serious about tackling the issue.

“I’m ready to cut the deal today,” the Ohio Republican said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “We don’t have to wait until the 11th hour. We have a moment - a window of opportunity to act because, if we don’t act, the market is going to act for us.”

The federal government will reach its $14.294 trillion legal debt limit this week, a scenario that would make it difficult to borrow to pay for its operations.

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has said he can juggle accounts until Aug. 2, but warned that failure to raise the limit could lead to another financial crisis.

Leaders of both parties in Congress, as well as President Obama, agree the debt ceiling must be raised. But Mr. Boehner said he isn’t convinced the president is fully committed to working with Republicans to broker a deal.

“He’s talking about it, but I’m not seeing real action,” Mr. Boehner said. “We all know what the problems are. Why don’t we just deal with them?”

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, said Sunday, “We have yet to see a concrete proposal offered by either the president or the Senate Democrats” on the issue.

“The whole reason we are running into this debt limit so soon is because of the spending spree that has occurred over the last two years,” said Mr. Ryan on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

But Mr. Obama warned Republicans not to play politics with the issue, saying that failing to raise the debt limit could lead to a worse financial crisis and economic recession than the one that gripped the nation in 2008-09.

“If investors around the world thought that the full faith and credit of the United States was not being backed up, if they thought that we might renege on our IOUs, it could unravel the entire financial system,” said Mr. Obama told CBS in remarks recorded last week and broadcast by CBS News on Sunday.

Mr. Obama added he was committed to deficit reduction but discouraged tying it to the debt-limit debate.

“Let’s not have the kind of linkage where we’re even talking about not raising the debt ceiling,” he said.

Republicans on Sunday continued their stance that significant spending cuts should accompany any deal.

“I’ve talked to the president all year privately about the fact that we were not going to increase the debt limit without serious changes,” Mr. Boehner said.

Mr. Boehner said last week that it would take more than $2 trillion in spending cuts before Republicans could support a deal to raise the debt limit. But GOP leaders Sunday were reluctant to specify a price tag.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden and a bipartisan group from Congress have been meeting in recent days to negotiate a deal to reduce the deficit and raise the credit limit. The participants generally have said the talks have been fruitful but have been tight-lipped on specifics.

Mr. Obama last month suggested a plan to cut $4 trillion from the deficit using a mix of $3 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases.

Congressional Democrats last week introduced legislation to end tax breaks to big oil companies - a move that was received cooly by Republicans who viewed it as a tax hike.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said any deal should include measures to reduce spending in the “short term, medium term and long term.”

“We need to impress the markets, impress foreign countries that we’re going to get our act together, and astonish the American people that the adults are in charge in Washington and are actually going to deal with this issue,” said Mr. McConnell on “State of the Union” TV program Sunday.

While the U.S. could reach the debt ceiling as early as Monday, financial experts say they don’t expect a panic on Wall Street just yet.

“Nothing blows up next week, but the clock is ticking now,” said Alice Rivlin of the Brookings Institution told Reuters new service. “We need to get on top of this problem.”

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