Raise U.S. Debt Limit Enough for Next Five Years, Engler Says

Nov. 16 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. government should raise the debt ceiling high enough to cover projected deficits for the next five years, said John Engler, president of the Business Roundtable.

The U.S. is expected to reach the $16.4 trillion ceiling this year, and the Treasury Department can take other steps to extend borrowing authority into early 2013. In 2011, Congress came within days of breaching the debt limit.

“It’s a terribly blunt, clumsy instrument to try to use,” Engler, a former Republican governor of Michigan, said in a Bloomberg News interview. “It’s not a good weapon for anything except destroying our own credit rating.”

Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner, have demanded that any increase in the debt limit be matched with spending cuts.

Engler, whose Washington-based group’s members are chief executives of large corporations, said lawmakers should address the debt limit soon, as part of negotiations over averting the $607 billion fiscal cliff of automatic spending cuts and tax increases scheduled to begin in January.

The issue isn’t a constructive way to address spending, he said.

“It only is about: Can we borrow the money to pay for the spending that’s already taking place?” Engler said.

Over the next five years, even if expiring tax cuts aren’t extended, the U.S. is projected to accumulate more than $1.5 trillion in additional deficits, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

To contact the reporter on this story: Richard Rubin in Washington at rrubin12@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jodi Schneider at jschneider50@bloomberg.net