Opponents of Debt-Limit Rise Are ‘Terrorists,’ O’Neill Says

Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill said members of Congress who threaten to oppose an increase in the federal debt limit are “terrorists” who are putting the government’s credit rating at risk.

“I think the people who threaten not to pass the debt ceiling are our version of al-Qaeda terrorists,” O’Neill said in an interview today on Bloomberg Television’s “InBusiness With Margaret Brennan” program. “They’re really putting our whole society at risk by threatening to round up 50 percent of the members of Congress -- who are loony -- who would put our credit at risk.”

Republicans are demanding major spending reductions as the price of their votes to raise the $14.3 trillion debt limit. The Treasury Department projects that it will reach the cap on May 16, though it could use accounting moves to avoid default until about July 8.

O’Neill was President George W. Bush’s first Treasury secretary and was fired in December 2002 after criticizing the administration’s tax cuts as well as making a series of controversial remarks.

“The Congress needs to be responsible and adult and take action,” O’Neill said today. “This is not about permitting spending in the future. This is permitting us to pay the bills we’ve already incurred. This whole conversation is irresponsible.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Faler in Washington at bfaler@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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