Pelosi vows no help from Dems on debt bill
By Mike Lillis - 09/27/13 12:45 PM ET
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) warned Friday that GOP leaders will get no help from Democrats in the effort to raise the debt limit.
The House minority leader said she's spoken with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on the topic, emphasizing that Democrats agree with President Obama that legislation to hike the nation's $16.7 trillion debt ceiling is non-negotiable.
"We've had a number of conversations, and I just say, 'Don't expect us to be helpful when it comes to the debt ceiling, because we don't think that's negotiable,' " Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol Friday.
Pelosi carved a clear distinction between the debt-ceiling hike — which would empower the Treasury to borrow more money to pay for appropriations Congress has already approved — and the continuing resolution (CR), which would provide new government funding beyond Sept. 30.
"We stand ready to help on one [the CR], but not to take down the full faith and credit of the United States of America," she said.
House GOP leaders this week floated a proposal that would condition a debt-limit hike on the passage of a long wish-list of Republican policy priorities, including a delay in ObamaCare funding, approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and the elimination of regulations governing the environment and the banks. All of the GOP agenda items are non-starters for Obama and the Democrats.
Yet even that proposal was not conservative enough for the members of the GOP's right-most flank, which grumbled that the package did not contain enough spending cuts and entitlement reforms.
In response, GOP leaders have delayed the release of their debt-ceiling bill in order to focus first on the CR.
"We are looking at making sure we finish the business of the CR and, as we know, the debt ceiling is going to be upon us in the next couple of weeks,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told The Hill on Friday.
“But our focus right now is seeing what comes back on the CR.”
The Senate is expected to pass a spending bill on Friday, after stripping out an ObamaCare defunding provision upon which many Republicans are insisting.
That maneuver will force Boehner to make a tough decision: pass the Senate's "clean" CR with Democratic support and risk a revolt among conservatives in his conference, or add Republican amendments and send the bill back to the Senate, prolonging the process and risking a government shutdown on Tuesday.
Republicans are planning to huddle Saturday in the Capitol to discuss their strategy going forward.
Pelosi on Friday said that, as far as she can tell, the Republicans are without any cohesive plan.
"I don't know that they even know what they're doing, so it's impossible to know how we'll react," she said.
"What they say in the morning doesn't exist in the evening," she added. "They can't even negotiate with themselves, much less with anyone outside."
Pelosi noted that former President George W. Bush, who took office in 2001 when the federal budget was showing trillions of dollars of surplus, left the White House in 2009 with the government facing trillions of dollars in deficits.
She wondered why Republicans weren't more critical of the Bush-era policies that contributed to that huge swing.
"A large part of the deficit that is being subjected to the debt-limit increase was amassed during the Bush years," she said. "Find me, please, one statement that any of these [Republicans] made about the deficit and its rapid growth under the Bush administration. ... They simply did not."