More than six in 10 Americans say Congress should require spending cuts before raising the debt ceiling, even if that puts the nation at risk of default, according to a Bloomberg poll released Thursday.
President Obama and congressional Democrats are demanding a debt-ceiling increase with no conditions, with the president repeatedly admonishing Congress to "pay the bills that they've already racked up." The business community — wary of the economic consequences of default — is calling on Congress to raise the limit as well.
But those arguments appear to have failed to win over a majority of the public thus far, with only 28 percent of respondents telling Bloomberg they favor an unconditional increase. Eleven percent said they were unsure.
Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize any new congressional spending. Instead, it authorizes the Treasury Department to borrow more to pay the country's existing obligations.
By withholding an increase, however, Republicans see a window to force spending cuts, a maneuver they successfully employed in 2011, when they agreed to raise the debt ceiling only after Democrats agreed to put in place a spending-reduction plan that eventually produced the current across-the-board discretionary spending cuts known as the sequester.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says the deficit is falling sharply when measured as a percentage of the country's total economic output, but the majority of Americans see it differently. Fifty-nine percent of poll respondents said the deficit is growing, 26 percent said it was holding steady, and only 10 percent said it is getting smaller.
Bloomberg's poll was done via interviews of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted between Sept. 20 and Sept. 23.