Reporting from Washington — Washington's two new power players — the speaker of the House and the White House chief of staff — came out clashing Sunday on how to best deal with the rising government debt and proposed federal spending cuts.
Speaker John A. Boehner urged the White House to join with Republicans in the next two weeks and agree to major cuts that would lower spending to pre-Obama administration levels in 2008. Without compromise, Boehner warned, the government will once again have to raise its debt limit.
"We want to reduce spending. Period," said the Ohio Republican, making his first appearance as House speaker on the Sunday TV talk shows with an interview on "Fox News Sunday." President Obama, he warned, has "got to be willing to cut up the credit cards."
William Daley, the new White House chief of staff, in his own first Sunday television appearance, said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that his experience as a businessman tells him government investments in private enterprise, along with spending cuts, are the best way to spark the economy.
"We all agree there must be cuts to this government," Daley said. With the U.S. debt climbing to record levels, he urged patience, noting that Obama's plan for a five-year freeze in spending would save $400 billion.
Next month, the White House and House Republicans are scheduled to release their own separate budget proposals, and the political posturing on Sunday suggests they will be vastly different. But the two sides must find some reconciliation soon, as the government is operating on a budget resolution that ends March 4.
In the House, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has said Republicans will take up the matter of spending levels on Feb. 14. They want to vote on cuts before turning their attention to the debt limit. The Republicans are already discussing trying to slash $55 billion from the 2011 budget.
At the White House, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has said that if spending continues, the government will hit its statutory debt limit of $14.3 trillion by the end of March.
Boehner noted that in last week's State of the Union message, Obama called for new programs to create jobs. But Obama did not address the debt limit, the speaker said, adding: "I don't think the American people will tolerate increasing the debt limit without serious reductions in spending."
"All he did was call for more stimulus spending," Boehner said.
Daley urged less political rhetoric and more compromise.
"No one wants the government to go into default," he said. "Considering we are just beginning to come out of this great recession … trying to use the debt ceiling as some sort of threat or leverage will run the possibility of spooking the markets. And the American people should be quite concerned about that."
Daley said it would take "a tremendous amount" of work to reduce deficits.
"We've got to work our way" out, he said. "We got in this hole over many years.''