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House GOP Seeks to Draw Out Debt Ceiling Fight

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Ryan told reporters attending the House GOP’s three-day summit in Virginia that a short-term debt ceiling increase is one option on the table.

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — House Republicans are considering a short-term increase to the debt limit that would essentially create another fiscal cliff in an attempt to force Democrats to agree to spending cuts.

The idea is one of many being floated at the three-day House GOP retreat at a golf resort here, where Republicans hope to put aside the bitter infighting of the past few years and come together around a common agenda.

Though no final decisions have been made, members at the retreat are indicating that the GOP is inclined to take a hard line on the fights that will characterize the next 30 days — a debt ceiling hike, the sequester and a continuing resolution for government appropriations.

“The worst thing for the economy is to move past these events that are occurring with no progress made on the debt and deficit,” House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin told reporters.

Ryan, the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential candidate, said that a short-term debt ceiling increase is on the table, and Republicans could ask for spending cuts in return.

“We’re discussing the possible virtue of a short-term debt limit extension so that we have a better chance of getting the Senate and White House involved in discussions in March,” Ryan said. “What we want to achieve at the end of the day is a two-way discussion between Democrats and Republicans and, out of that, hopefully some progress being made about getting the deficit and debt under control.”

Ryan is also leading what Republicans are calling a “working group” of five influential conservative members: Reps. Tom Price of Georgia, Jeb Hensarling of Texas, Jim Jordan of Ohio and Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the new chairman of the Republican Study Committee.

The group worked in advance of the retreat to formulate ideas about how to approach the debt ceiling and other upcoming spending battles, some of which Ryan presented Thursday at their closed-door meeting.

Ryan’s group puts some of the most powerful members of the conference’s right flank together. Some in the group, Price in particular, have sometimes been viewed as a threat to Speaker John A. Boehner.

Aides to the Ohio Republican said the speaker didn’t establish the group. But Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole said the fact that Ryan gave a presentation alongside Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor shows that leadership is on board with the effort.

“It wouldn’t have been a formal presentation and Ryan wouldn’t be leading the discussion if what’s happening didn’t have the support of leadership,” Cole said. “I think they want some of our best minds thinking through what our options are.”

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