UPDATE 1-US House leader: debt limit hike must be tied to cuts

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WASHINGTON, Jan 23 (Reuters) - U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor said on Sunday his fellow Republicans would not vote to increase the U.S. debt limit unless it was coupled with spending cuts and reforms.

“Republicans are not going to vote for this increase in the debt limit unless there are serious spending cuts and reforms,” Cantor said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program. “That is just the way it is.”

“So we have talked about bringing spending levels down to ‘08 levels,” Cantor said, referring to the 2008 federal budget. “We know there are hundreds of programs that are going to need to be cut.”

He declined to provide specifics about cuts but said that “every dollar should be on the table” including defense spending.

Republicans won control of the House in the Nov. 2 elections, in part because of their pledge to cut government spending.

The Obama administration has said that failing to increase the borrowing limit, currently at $14.294 trillion, would cause the federal government to default on its debt obligations and would be “catastrophic” to U.S. and global markets.

Some Republicans have acknowledged the need to increase the debt limit but have insisted that they will only vote to do so if it is coupled with billions of dollars in cuts in the federal budget.

The debt could reach the ceiling as early as March 31 or as late as May 16, depending on the economy and the strength of tax receipts. The Obama administration’s Treasury Department could use a variety of tools to delay hitting that limit. [ID:nN04224129] (Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky, editing by Paul Simao)