Both Sides of the Aisle Unconvinced By Boehner's Debt Speech

House Speaker's spending cut vow faces critics on the left and right.

House Speaker John Boehner

"The speaker articulated what Republican members and candidates, the frustrations that they are seeing throughout the country, and that's that the American people want leaders who are going to step up to the plate and talk about jobs and how to cut spending to get our massive deficit under control," says Andrea Bozek, spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Tim Geitner reacted to Boehner's speech by chastising the speaker for raising the possibility of preventing the United States from paying its bills.

"This commitment to protect the creditworthiness of the country is a fundamental commitment you can never call into question or violate because it's the foundation for any market economy," he said. "This allows us to govern, to fight wars, to deal with crises, recessions, to adjust to a changing world."

[See political cartoons on the economy.]

Last summer's stand-off resulted in the U.S. credit rating taking a hit from Standard and Poor's.

Isabel Sawhill, a budget policy expert at the Brookings Institute, says it's no wonder Boehner flagged the same strategy again for the next upcoming debt ceiling vote.

"There's no question that this has worked politically for Republicans, or at least worked well for them last time around," she says. "They are certainly keeping in mind that they got lots of spending cuts as a result of using this as a bargaining chip and so they are naturally saying to themselves, 'we can do this again.'"

As Boehner must navigate between the public's desire for spending cuts and disappointment with a gridlocked Congress, a spokesman pushed back against the notion that the speaker's remarks constituted "brinkmanship."

"The only people talking about 'brinksmanship' or a 'standoff' right now are the White House and other Washington Democrats," wrote Michael Steel in an E-mail to reporters Wednesday.

"Speaker Boehner made clear there's no reason to wait to deal with the debt limit and spending cuts until we're up against a deadline. He's ready to have those discussions right now if there is a willing partner."

Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle met with President Obama Wednesday for the first time since February, and aides say the issue was discussed.

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  • Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at or follow her on Twitter.