RALEIGH — A tea party candidate who is now among North Carolina's newest members of Congress said Friday that she may vote to raise the nation's debt so long as lawmakers can begin making at least some substantial budget cuts.
Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers said in an interview that she doesn't want to raise the debt ceiling. But she acknowledged that Congress might need to approve the increase in how much the government can borrow to ensure seniors and others don't lose the benefits they need.
Voters swept Ellmers and other tea party candidates into office just two months ago in part because of outrage about the size and growth of the nation's debt. Ellmers wants to see at least $100 billion in cuts as a starting point. The government is on track to spend $1.3 trillion more this year than it takes in.
"We've got to be able to prove to the American people that we're just not arbitrarily raising the debt ceiling so that we can do some more big spending," Ellmers said.
Federal debt has nearly doubled in the past six years. When President George W. Bush began his second term in January 2005, the debt stood at $7.6 trillion. It jumped to $10.6 trillion by the day President Barack Obama was inaugurated and is now around $14 trillion.
The current maximum the government can borrow is $14.3 trillion, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has warned that the government will surpass that mark in the coming months and that failure to increase borrowing authority would be "a catastrophe."
Republicans have vowed to cut $100 billion from domestic spending this year, and Ellmers believes that is a minimum point to begin. She didn't have a list of specific cuts to target but said lawmakers were working on identifying areas to trim, with particular focus on government waste.