WASHINGTON — Washington's two new power players — the speaker of the House and the White House chief of staff — differed in separate television interviews Sunday on how best to 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 will lower spending to 2008 levels. Without compromise, he said, the government will once again have to raise its debt limit.
"We want to reduce spending. Period," the Ohio Republican said on Fox News Sunday. President Obama has "got to be willing to cut up the credit cards," he said.
William Daley, the new White House chief of staff, said on CBS' Face the Nation that his experience as a businessman tells him that 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 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 that 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 already are discussing trying to cut $55 billion from the fiscal 2011 budget.
At the White House, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said that if spending continues, by the end of March the government will hit its statuary debt limit of $14.3 trillion.
Boehner and Daley acknowledged that time is running out.
"We have been in this 'gotcha' politics in this country for too long," Boehner said.
He noted that Obama in last week's State of the Union message called for new programs to create new jobs. "But he did not address the debt limit," he said. "The American people do not want us increasing the debt limit without significant cuts in spending.... All he called for is more stimulus spending."
Daley also urged less political rhetoric and more compromise.
"No one wants the government to go into default," he said. "We've seen governments around the world go into default. And 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 will 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."