May 22 (Bloomberg) -- A congressional agreement to increase the U.S. debt limit and reduce federal spending may take until August, the Republican chairman of the U.S. House Budget Committee said.
“I think there will be a deal. It will probably take a while. Look, we have to August,” Representative Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The U.S. Treasury Department has said Congress must raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by Aug. 2 to avoid the government defaulting on its loans.
“Nobody wants default to happen, but at the same time we don’t want to rubber stamp just a debt-limit increase that shows we’re not getting our situation under control,” Ryan said.
Ryan defended a Republican budget plan that would cut spending by more than $6 trillion over a decade and privatize Medicare. The proposal would replace the traditional Medicare health-care system for the elderly with subsidies to buy private insurance starting with people who turn 65 in 2022.
“You cannot deal with this debt crisis unless you’re serious about entitlement reform,” Ryan said.
The plan passed the House of Representatives on April 15 on a 235-193 vote.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, running for the Republican presidential nomination, said last week that Ryan’s Medicare plan represented “radical change,” a remark he then apologized for after receiving criticism within his party.
“His quote was deeply inaccurate,” Ryan said. “This is as sensible and gradual as it gets.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said today he won’t vote to raise the debt ceiling without a plan in place to curb the cost of Medicare and Medicaid, the health-care program for the poor.
“We gotta act and we gotta act now,” McConnell said on the “Fox News Sunday” program. “The time to do it is in connection with the debt ceiling.”
McConnell gave few details on what he believed an agreement on the debt-limit issue that cuts spending should look like. It’s unlikely to be any several plans being considered in the Senate or Ryan’s proposal, he said.
Instead, McConnell said, a final plan will have to emerge from current deficit discussions among lawmakers and President Barack Obama’s administration that are being led by Vice President Joe Biden.
“None of these budgets are going to become law,” McConnell said. “The real action is down at the White House.”
--With assistance from Jim Snyder in Washington. Editors: Don Frederick, Ann Hughey.
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