Photo: Courtesy of MSNBC
Over the past few days, numerous conservatives and Republicans have come out and urged Republicans to agree to a debt-ceiling hike without any drama.Their argument: Threatening to throw the country into economic turmoil would bring horrific consequences not only for the country, but also for the GOP and its image.
Amid the calls, vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan said today that Republicans have discussed a short-term increase.
The conservative pleas come from everyone from the Tea Party Express to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to current members of Congress.
On Tuesday, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski became the first GOP member of Congress to throw outright opposition at the party’s strategy in an interview with the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
“If you incur an obligation, you have a responsibility to pay for that,” Murkowski told the paper.
And similarly, Gingrich told CBS Tuesday that it would not be a winning strategy for Republicans and it’s a “fight they cannot sustain.”
“No one is going to default,” he said. “No one is going to allow the United States to not pay its bills. No one is going to accept the economic costs. It rallies the entire business community to the president’s side.
“And the fact is, the Republicans have two much better arenas in which to fight over spending: They have a continuing resolution which funds government, which comes up at the end of March. And they have the sequester, which automatically cuts spending unless it’s dealt with. And those two fronts they can fight, and they have much less resistance from the average American, and it’s much harder for the president to oppose them.”
Former Wyoming Republican Sen. Alan Simpson, co-author of the Simpson-Bowles plan told CNBC Tuesday that using the debt ceiling as leverage for spending cuts would be a “grave mistake”:
I don’t think that would solve anything. I know they are going to try it, and how far you go with a game of chicken, I have no idea. But I can tell you … you can’t, you really can’t … This is stuff we’ve already indebted ourselves. If you’re a real conservative — a really honest conservative, without hypocrisy — you’d want to pay your debt. And that’s what this is, they are not running up anything new.”
And here’s Americans For Prosperity, the grassroots conservative group backed by the billionaire Koch brothers:
“We’re saying calibrate your message. Focus on overspending instead of long-term debt,” Tim Phillips, president of AFP, told the Financial Times. “Focusing on [the debt ceiling] makes the messaging more difficult.”
(AFP later clarified the comments in a subsequent statement that appears to reverse course somewhat.)
The New Hampshire Union Leader, whose editorial board tilts conservative, said Tuesday that the debt ceiling the “wrong time” to push for more spending cuts:
The Republicans view the debt ceiling increase as their one chance to squeeze spending concessions from a President who otherwise will never agree to reduce federal appropriations. The trouble with forcing that standoff is that Republicans cannot win it. Obama will stand firm, and they will have to flinch or shut down the government. Either way, Obama wins and Republicans lose more credibility, which makes it harder to force a showdown on spending on more favourable ground in the future.
And finally, the Tea Party Express told the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler Thursday that it favours a temporary hike in the debt ceiling, saying it was objecting to President Barack Obama’s insistence that it be removed altogether.
“There are cash flow issues that might necessitate a temporary debt ceiling increase, which would then be reduced when tax revenues balloon in March and April,” the group said. “We are not opposed to responsibly meeting essential obligations.”
White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer took notice of the party infighting:
Of course, that doesn’t mean GOP leadership is ready to cave — especially with some of the party’s staunchest conservatives still signaling they won’t agree to an increase without significant spending concessions. Some Congressmen are coalescing around the idea that the Treasury could prioritise payments to avoid default in the event that the debt ceiling is breached.
House Speaker John Boehner also stuck to a hardline stance Monday, responding to Obama’s press conference by saying the “consequences of failing to increase the debt ceiling are real, but so too are the consequences of allowing our spending problem to go unresolved.”
But the fact that some respectable party members are pushing back — combined with polls that show 58 per cent of Americans think the debt ceiling and spending cuts should be separate issues — doesn’t give Boehner a lot of leverage to pursue that strategy.
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