House Speaker John Boehner passed up two opportunities Thursday to rule out bringing up a vote on legislation to extend middle income tax cuts, allowing the Bush tax cuts for top earners to expire. But he suggested that if the year ends without a broader agreement between himself and President Obama, he'll use the debt limit to provoke a new round of budget negotiations.
Asked at his Thursday Capitol briefing if he categorically refuses to advance legislation extending the middle-income Bush tax cuts, Boehner acknowledged that "the law of the land today is that everyone's income taxes are going to go up on Jan. 1. I've made it clear that I think that is unacceptable. But until we get this issue resolved, that risk remains."
Pressed again in a followup question, he kept his options open.
"My goal is to get to an agreement with the President of the United States that addresses this problem," he said.
If Boehner's forced to extend middle-income tax cuts only, it's unlikely that Congress will raise the debt limit before the end of the year. That, he suggested, will allow him to reopen negotiations with Obama early next year.
"The debt limit ought to be used to bring fiscal sanity to Washington, DC," he said.