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On Debt, GOP Consults Itself

File Photo
From left: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are trying to build a united front among Republicans over the U.S. debt limit.

“If we ask for more credit, we must prove worthy of it,” Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring said. “That’s why President Obama, Vice President Biden and the leaders of their party are obligated to ensure that any debt limit increase is accompanied by serious reforms that immediately reduce federal spending and reverse the culture of debt hovering over Washington.”

According to a GOP leadership aide, proposed cuts that Republicans view as immediate include hard caps on discretionary spending, cuts to Medicaid spending and reductions in the overall size of the federal workforce, potentially by limiting the number of new workers hired to replace retiring workers.

House Republicans also are working on a trigger to impose cuts. According to the aide, the trigger “would ensure that real reforms are enacted by a date certain and that the size of the debt limit increase will be directly tied to the amount of real savings that are actually enacted within that period.”

Republican leaders are scheduled to hold a conference call Tuesday with GOP lawmakers. In addition to discussing how the budget written by Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is playing in their districts, the debt limit also is expected to come up.

Boehner has publicly shied away from outlining any specifics and has said that a vote on the debt limit must include “real cuts.”

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said the “Speaker has made it very clear the American public will not tolerate an increase in the debt ceiling without real spending cuts and reform so we can keep cutting to help reduce the uncertainty that is making it harder for the private sector to create jobs.”

Senate Republicans are taking similar steps to build a unified front for the negotiations.

According to a GOP leadership aide, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) has been quietly “hosting meetings with Members for months” in an attempt to gauge where his Members are on the issue and to put together a list of demands.

“The field is narrowing,” the aide added, saying Senate Republicans are now discussing a handful of options including hard spending reductions and a balanced-budget amendment.

McConnell and his Conference are eyeing a plan by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) to impose caps on spending that are tied to a gradually reduced share of the GDP. Conservative economists have touted that idea as a way to rein in spending and maintain cuts over the long term.

One area of potential disagreement between leadership in both chambers and the party’s conservative base is over the inclusion of a balanced-budget amendment. Conservatives such as Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) have pushed to include the constitutional amendment in the agreement.

But leaders appear wary of such a demand, a senior Senate GOP aide said, explaining that it includes virtually no political price for Obama if he agrees to it and would not go into effect for years, if ever.

“It needs to be something the president signs. ... It doesn’t cost the president anything,” the aide said.

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