UPDATE 2-Boost US debt ceiling to cover 2010, Hoyer says

Tue Dec 1, 2009 12:39pm EST

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WASHINGTON Dec 1 (Reuters) - The No. 2 Democrat in the House of Representatives said on Tuesday he supports raising the United States' debt ceiling to a high enough level so lawmakers will not have to boost it again before the November 2010 congressional elections.

"We ought to pass a debt limit extension that gets us through next year," Representative Steny Hoyer said at a news conference.

Congress will have to raise the current debt ceiling of $12.1 trillion in coming weeks to prevent the Treasury Department from defaulting on its debt.

The House voted in the spring to raise the ceiling to $13 trillion, likely not enough to last through the 2010 elections at current borrowing rates, but the Senate has yet to act.

Hoyer's comments indicated that House leaders would be willing to go along with the Senate if it voted to raise the limit further.

Public unease is rising over the record deficits incurred during the worst financial downturn since the 1930s, and raising the limit to a high enough level to cover the Treasury's borrowing needs through 2010 would avoid a politically awkward vote in the months before many lawmakers face re-election.

To give them some political cover, the debt-limit increase could also be combined with other must-pass bills that fund the Pentagon and other government agencies, or a jobs-creating bill.

Other lawmakers see the increase as a vehicle for legislation they favor, such as a proposal to create a commission that would look at ways to get the federal budget under control.

Republicans hope to use the bill to redirect unused funds from the $700 billion bank bailout and the $787 billion economic stimulus package to reduce the deficit.

The recession, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and tax cuts have forced lawmakers to more than double the debt limit from $5.7 trillion when former President George W. Bush took office in 2001.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan, Editing by Sandra Maler and Vicki Allen) ((andy.sullivan@thomsonreuters.com; +1 202 898 8391; Reuters Messaging: andy.sullivan.reuters.com@reuters.net))

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