Sen. Pat Toomey has exchanged testy letters with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner over his bill to force the government to pay off debt service first if Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling before the government reaches the $14.3 trillion limit. But today, at a Budget Committee hearing, the pair were strikingly cordial -- even as they broke no new ground on Toomey's bill and the administration's position on it.
Toomey took up most of his allotted seven minutes giving an abbreviated version of the speech he gave at the Heritage Foundation on Wednesday about the debt pickle we're in now and how we need budget process reforms and how his bill will help us get there. He also said talk that not raising the debt ceiling would constitute a defualt is disingenuous.
"I think it's been inappropriate for the administration to raise the specter of a defualt on our debt in the context of this debt limit because you and I both know there are no circumstances in which we'd defualt on our debt," Toomey said. "We shouldn't even have to have this discussion because we both know this."
Geithner, in a brief response, was complimentary of Toomey's knowledge of the country's fiscal history and his willingness to work on a solution via budget process reforms. But he maintained that the debt ceiling vote is not the time and place for it."We agree on more than you think," Geithner began. "We agree that we have to work together on a plan that Congress can enact that will start to deal wtih these very dunting, very formidable debt challenges."
Though he didn't threaten a default, the Treasury Secretary added that "we cannot afford to let the market lose any confidence" that Congress will raise the debt limit. He added that not raising the debt limit would be "catastrophic, and cause grave damage to the recovery from the recession."
So no fisticuffs, but behind the pleasantries, the two men aren't on the same page on this bill.