House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Wednesday that Congress must make "crystal clear that America pays its bills," painting a picture of financial doom if the legislature fails to raise the debt limit by the August 2 deadline.
Hoyer said that it was essential to pass an extension in the coming days to protect the nation's finances. When asked what needed to be done, Hoyer said only, "Extend the debt limit. Ensure that we don't default. Pass a bill." He added that the Congress could pass an extension within 24 hours, but wasn't as bullish on those prospects.
Asked if that was a possibility, Hoyer joked, "Well that's a different question." He noted that passing an extension relied more heavily upon the Republican majority in the House.
The Maryland congressman embraced the debt reduction framework of the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson Commission, something he has done in the past, as a possible way forward. That sentiment was echoed by his counterpart in the other chamber, Senate Assistant Majority Leader and Democratic Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois.
He cautioned that steps to increase the maximum on the nation's credit card must not rely too heavily on spending cuts, however. "Whatever we do we must make sure that whatever we do doesn't damage the economy in the short term," Hoyer said.
"We were making productive progress (on raising the debt limit)," Hoyer said, referring to the debt limit negotiations led by Vice President Joe Biden that fell apart late last month after Republicans objected to the inclusion of tax increases in any debt deal. "When it got tough (House Majority Leader Eric) Cantor and (Senate Assistant Minority Leader Jon) Kyl dropped out," Hoyer said, "I think that was bad for the country."
Hoyer said there were ample precedents for the difficult decisions ahead, and used one vote that many members would like to forget as an example. "We've had tough votes in the past," Hoyer said, "Bad analogy perhaps, but TARP worked. And we did that on a bipartisan vote."
Whether members like it or not, the limit must be raised according to Hoyer, who predicted financial Armageddon if the Congress does not pass an extension before the early August deadline. He said that interest rates for the government and the consumer would go up, Social Security checks would not be delivered, and the economy could relapse into recession.