Democrats and Republicans are on another collision course over increasing U.S. borrowing authority as President Barack Obama told Republicans on Wednesday that he does not want spending cuts to accompany such legislation.
House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell met at the White House with Obama and Democratic congressional leaders.
A Boehner aide said the Speaker - the top-elected Republican - asked Obama if he is proposing that Congress pass a debt limit increase without spending cuts.
"The president said, 'yes,'" the aide said.
On Tuesday, Boehner took a hard stance when he warned that any debt limit increase, which likely will be needed at the end of the year, would have to come with spending cuts that would more than offset the higher borrowing authority.
White House spokesman Jay Carney did not answer directly when asked whether Obama wants a debt limit increase without spending cuts.
But in remarks to reporters, Carney noted that Obama already has signed into law more than $2 trillion in deficit reductions and that the president wants a "balanced approach" to resolving the nation's debt problem - a phrase that Democrats have used to refer to tax increases on the wealthy alongside spending cuts.
At the White House lunch on Wednesday, Boehner told Obama: "As long as I'm around here, I'm not going to allow a debt ceiling increase without doing something serious about the debt," according to the aide.
Following the White House meeting, the aide was asked by Reuters whether military reductions should be part of any spending cuts linked to the next debt limit increase. He responded: "Boehner has never tied the military issue to the debt limit."
Boehner already has ruled out tax hikes as part of any debt-reduction deal, although he said comprehensive tax reform efforts, possibly next year, could cause some Americans' tax bills to rise as certain deductions and credits are eliminated.
But with Republicans saying tax rate increases and military spending cuts are off the table for this year, the only remaining government activities left to cut would be "discretionary" domestic programs, such as education, medical research, transportation and programs for the poor.
The other major area would be "entitlement" programs such as Social Security retirement and Medicare healthcare for the elderly. Reforming these programs in a short, end-of-year session, is seen as highly unlikely.
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