House Ways and Means chairman says Republicans have to face political realities
CAMBRIDGE, Md. — House Republicans appear to be softening their resistance to an impending vote to raise the debt limit, which could diffuse the threat of another showdown over the nation's borrowing authority next month.
Republicans had warned that they would have a list of demands before they would again raise the nation's debt limit, but President Obama and Democrats have said they would not negotiate any deals.
"The debt's going up, and we have a greater obligation than to simply just pass it alone, but there is a political reality that the administration and the president doesn't see it that way," House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., said Thursday. Camp was participating in the House GOP's three-day annual retreat where lawmakers are strategizing the party's 2014 legislative agenda.
After three years of pitched budget battles that have focused heavily on the debt ceiling and federal spending, Republicans here seem more receptive to the realities of divided government and the political push back the party received following the partial government shutdown last year.
"Sure, yeah, I think it does," said Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., when asked whether the shutdown affected Republican strategy. "I think we would be glad to set terms (for a debt limit increase), but as we saw through the shutdown, (Democrats) were not interested in talking about anything."
He added: "No Republican I've talked to wants to default on the debt."
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has sought to enforce a rule that couples any debt ceiling increase with an equal amount of spending cuts or other economic reforms. However, when asked Thursday whether that standard would still apply against the upcoming vote, the speaker did not draw a hard line.
"We know what the obstacles are that we face, but we believe that defaulting on our debt is the wrong thing. We don't want to do that," he said.
Obama and congressional Democrats are advocating for a "clean" debt-ceiling increase, with no conditions attached. Under the agreement reached to end the partial shutdown, the debt ceiling has been suspended through Feb. 7.
Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., suggested that House Republicans should wait for Senate Democrats to pass a debt-ceiling increase first. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who met privately with Senate Democrats on Thursday, urged them to move quickly on an increase with no conditions.
Lew has told Congress that he will run out of options to meet U.S. debt obligations by late February.