Comparing America's debt situation to the fall of Rome, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) on Thursday warned that he would vote against a bill to raise the U.S. debt ceiling unless it is tied to measures that reduce the federal debt. Republicans will be forced to consider an increase in the debt limit in the next few months, as a temporary spending measure funding the government is set to expire March 4.
"We can no longer ignore the albatross of debt around our collective necks," Wolf said in a speech on the House floor this afternoon. "That is why, unless there is a firm commitment to deal with the larger financial crisis, or the vote itself is tied to a possible debt solution, I will vote against the debt limit increase."
Wolf's comments reflect the sentiment of other Republicans who would prefer to cut federal spending rather than support an increase in the amount of debt the U.S. can legally hold. Wolf said he is aware of the possible dangers of not raising the debt limit, citing warnings from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, but said he would continue to press for something beyond a simple increase in the debt limit.
"Even if just a fraction of his [Geithner's] analysis is accurate, it is clear that this isn't a decision to be made casually," Wolf said. "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."
Wolf also warned that the U.S. needs to act sooner rather than later, or the choices will be tougher down the road. "The longer it takes to address this issue, the more draconian the options when the nation is forced to change course," he said.
The House adjourned immediately after Wolf's remarks, and will reconvene Monday at 2 p.m.