WASHINGTON — Sen. Charles Schumer said that threatening to deny an increase in the government's debt ceiling would be "playing with fire."
"If we didn't renew the debt ceiling, our soldiers and veterans wouldn't be paid, Social Security checks wouldn't go out," the New York Democrat said on NBC's Meet the Press. "Worst of all, we might permanently threaten confidence of the credit markets in the dollar, which would create a recession worse than the one we have now, or even a depression."
Republicans in Congress told President Barack Obama and Democrats last week they won't agree to raise the government's debt limit unless there are specific spending cuts. In a letter to congressional leaders, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the $14.29 trillion debt limit may be reached as soon as March 31 and "most likely" by May 16.
Schumer said both parties will "have to come together on spending," adding that Democrats "agree there ought to be spending cuts." He said he is "glad" that Republican House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor have said they won't use the debt ceiling as a threat.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, asked if fellow Republicans in Congress should oppose raising the federal debt ceiling, said they "should have the guts to put up or shut up." Republicans should "go out to the public and make your case," he said on Fox News Sunday.
Christie stopped short of saying he favors blocking an increase in the debt limit. He said in New Jersey he stood firm and yet avoided a state government shutdown "because I was clear" about bringing spending under control.
Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, a possible Republican presidential candidate next year, said on Fox News Sunday that he opposes raising the debt ceiling and Republicans should "be willing to stand up and say 'we're not doing that anymore.' " He proposed to "sequence the spending" by the federal government to avoid a U.S. debt default.
Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, said on Meet the Press that failing to increase the debt ceiling would be "nothing compared with what's going to happen to us if we don't address the real issues facing our country" and work on spending cuts.