Steny Hoyer: The Debt Limit ‘Is Not Real’

By Elizabeth Harrington

( – House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said  Tuesday that the debt limit is “not real” and should not be part of  any negotiations to avert the fiscal cliff.

“First of all, I again would urge the Speaker not to use the debt  limit to the detriment of the credit-worthiness of the United States of  America as a leverage point,” Hoyer said during his weekly pen and pad  briefing with reporters on Capitol Hill. “It is not a leverage point.”

“It is not real,” he said. “It is a phony political debate. We have  incurred debt and the United   States will meet its obligations, pure  and simple.”

Republicans have suggested using the debt limit as a tool to lower  spending in negotiations to avoid automatic across the board tax  increases and spending cuts at the end of the year — the so-called  “fiscal cliff.”

“Look, the only way we ever cut spending around here is by using the  debate over the debt limit to do it. Now the president wants to remove  that spur to cut altogether,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said last week.

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) has insisted that any  increase in the debt limit must be accompanied by equal cuts in  spending.

But Hoyer said he had no problem handing over to President Barack Obama  the authority the Constitution gives to Congress to borrow money,  because the debt limit is “not real.”

“If this were real I would agree that the Congress ought not to give  up its authority to do that,” he said.

“But Congress does ultimately  have the authority to do it, obviously; demonstrably it has that  authority, but no one believes — not Mitch McConnell, not John Boehner,  not Eric Cantor, ‘cause I’ve talked to all of them — certainly none of  us believe that America’s defaulting on our debt makes sense.”

Both Hoyer and the president are advocating for the so-called  “McConnell Rule” to cede Congress’s authority to the executive branch to  raise the debt ceiling. President Obama’s initial offer on the fiscal  cliff included permanent and unilateral authority to raise the debt  limit.

During last summer’s debt limit negotiations, Mitch McConnell  proposed allowing President Obama to raise the debt limit unless  two-thirds of Congress denied the request within 15 days.

The president, however, could then veto Congress and still allow the debt limit to be raised.

“I think Mitch McConnell made a useful suggestion — he’s now backed off of it, as I understand,” Hoyer said.

The current debt limit stands at $16.394 trillion, which the Treasury  Department expects to reach before the end of the year. As of the close  of business Friday, the public debt reached $16.365 trillion, leaving  less than $30 billion before the ceiling is met.

The Constitution expressly gives the power to borrow money only to  Congress – not the president. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 2 says:  “Congress shall have power … To borrow money on the credit of the  United States.”

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