Republicans contemplating government shutdown over debt fight
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., left, and Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, arrive to a second Republican caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. / AP Photo / Jacquelyn Martin
Updated 11:55 am E.T.
Republican leadership has publicly laid out drastic terms ahead of the multi-pronged debt fight Washington faces next month.
"I think it is possible that we would shut down the government to make sure President Obama understands that we're serious," Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., the fourth ranking Republican in the House, told Politico.
Congress is facing a trifecta of events that will make up the next budget battle: the debt limit will be maxed out by the end of February or early March, the $1.2 trillion sequester is set to go into effect March 1 and government funding for the current fiscal year expires on March 27.
Public admission that House Republicans are willing to shut down the government over the debt ceiling and spending means that the stakes have just been raised. Mr. Obama has said that he will not negotiate over the debt ceiling. He wants Congress to raise it with no strings attached.
As the 113th Congress comes back into session today, wanting to get out in front of the issue, the president held a news conference about the budget battles, where he had a sharp message for congressional Republicans: "The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip." Mr. Obama said it would be Republicans' fault if the debt ceiling is not raised. He said it would mean people might not receive their Social Security or disability checks, the government would stop functioning and international investors would question U.S. economic strength.
"To even entertain the idea of this happening, of America not paying its bills, is irresponsible. It's absurd," he added.
The White House put out a pointed statement over the weekend, indicting their insistence against a knock-out fight. "When Congressional Republicans played politics with this issue last time, putting us at the edge of default, it was a blow to our economic recovery, causing our nation's credit rating to be downgraded," White House spokesman Jay Carney said. "Congress needs to do its job."
But Republicans are sounding defiant. "We always talk about whether or not we're going to kick the can down the road. I think the mood is that we've come to the end of the road," McMorris Rogers told Politico.
Republicans want deep spending cuts. According to the Politico story, they want an additional $1 trillion of spending cuts in addition to the $1.2 trillion sequester.
Another option for a rancorous House GOP conference is default, which means allowing the debt ceiling to be reached, prohibiting the Treasury Department from paying the bills already incurred.
"No one wants to default, but we are not going to continue to give the president a limitless credit card," Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told Politico.
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