A Reckless Strategy?

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WASHINGTON, D.C. The White House urged Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole Monday to repudiate House Majority Leader Dick Armey's suggestion that any bill to raise the debt ceiling would also contain far-reaching policy changes such as the elimination of the Commerce Department. "His remarks are dangerous," Mike McCurry told reporters today, adding that the tactic could put U.S. economic security at risk. Karen Tumulty reports: "Armey's comments notwithstanding, there's no Republican strategy on the debt yet. Members are still returning to Washington. Moreover, the White House may have some leverage, given its advantage over Congress in the polls." Interest payments on the national debt are due on February 15th. If Republicans refuse to authorize a higher debt ceiling, the federal government could default on its financial obligations for the first time. So far, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin has avoided taking that step, thus buying President Clinton time and negotiating room, by tapping into federal trust funds, a maneuver that some Republicans say is unconstitutional and could lead to Rubin's impeachment. The White House scoffs at that suggestion, but White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta said Sunday: "Clearly, we don't want to continue to have the Secretary taking these actions."