Politics

Rep. Wolf Threatens to Vote Against Debt Ceiling Increase

Former US Rep. Frank Wolf aims to make religious freedom a 2016 presidential campaign issue. (AP)

Former US Rep. Frank Wolf aims to make religious freedom a 2016 presidential campaign issue. (AP)  (Reuters)

Virginia Rep. Frank Wolf threatened Thursday to oppose raising the country's $14.3 trillion debt limit, becoming one of the first members of Congress to draw a line in the sand over the looming vote. 

The Republican congressman declared on the House floor that he would vote "no" on the measure -- unless it's tied to balancing the budget. 

"When Congress is asked to increase the statutory debt limit, which will likely happen in the next few months, I will vote no, unless, and let me be completely clear here, there is a firm commitment to deal with the larger issue or the vote itself is tied to a plan to put America on a path to financial responsibility," Wolf said. 

Republicans voted nearly unanimously last year against raising the debt ceiling. But this time, they have the numbers in the House to actually derail it. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and other Obama administration officials have warned against this temptation, saying it could throw the nation into default, and so far most members of Congress have been cautious in announcing how they'll vote. 

But Wolf warned that if the debt is not curbed, America could fall off a fiscal cliff and watch countries like China take its place. 

"For too long, routinely increasing the amount of money the government can borrow without taking any action to stem the country's growing debt has been standard operating procedure. But the storm warning signs have been posted. And I'm heeding their ominous call," he said. "We can no longer ignore the albatross of debt around our collective necks." 

Elsewhere on the Hill Thursday, three Republican lawmakers put forward a plan they claim will cut out $2.5 trillion over the next decade. The Spending Reduction Act -- unveiled by Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Garrett of New Jersey and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint -- would start by rolling back spending to 2008 levels and repealing unspent stimulus dollars. From there, it would reduce the size of the federal civilian workforce and target other federal programs. 

While Republicans pitch spending cuts, a few other lawmakers have taken a hard line on the debt ceiling increase. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has threatened to vote against raising the debt limit. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., has circulated a petition calling on Congress to do the same. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., has made a similar threat. 

Wolf said Thursday he'd reconsider his threat if the vote is tied to a "debt solution" or "firm commitment" to deal with the financial crisis, but that otherwise he's "fully aware of the implications" of opposing it. 

"It is precisely because the stakes are so high that I believe the debt limit vote can serve as a trigger to force congressional action -- action that otherwise will not be taken," he said.