Cruz: GOP should seek spending reforms before raising debt ceiling

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Republicans should use the upcoming debt limit fight to look for more ways to cut spending even as top Democrats are predicting the GOP won’t follow his lead.

“We shouldn't just write a blank check. Five years ago, the national debt was $10 trillion. That took 43 presidents over 200 years to build up $10 trillion in debt. Today, it's over $17 trillion. It's grown nearly 70 percent with one president in five years,” Cruz said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday.

“If you ask any American outside of Washington, ‘Should we just keep raising the debt ceiling while doing nothing to have fundamental structural controls on spending to get Washington's spending problem under control?’ it doesn't matter if you're talking to a Republican, a Democrat, an independent, a libertarian. Anyone outside of Washington says, ‘Of course,’” Cruz added.

 But Democrats say that the backlash against Republican efforts to defund Obamacare, which led to a shutdown of the federal government last October, will have convinced them to stay away from seeking leverage from a crisis. It was Cruz’s threats to filibuster any spending bill that didn’t defund the health care law that sparked the strategy.

“I do not believe that Republican leaders will follow Ted Cruz over the cliff once again. I believe we will pass a clean debt ceiling that makes sense. We don't want to risk the full faith and credit. We can debate all these other issues at a different time and place. But I think they learned their lesson with the government shutdown,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. on “Face the Nation.” “Not only did tea party ratings plummet, but so did Republican Party ratings.”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said that an unconditional debt-limit increase simply won’t pass the House.

Cruz disputes the notion that he was responsible for the shutdown, saying it was the fault of the president and Senate Democrats for their refusal to negotiate over the law.

“Throughout the government shutdown, I opposed a government shutdown,” Cruz said. “I said we shouldn't shut down the government. I think it was a mistake that President Obama and the Democrats shut the government down this fall. The reason they did so is that President Obama dug in and said he wouldn't compromise and he wouldn't negotiate.”

Cruz is calling on President Obama to use his State of the Union address to apologize to the American people for failing to produce more economic gains and passing the health care law on a party-line vote in 2010, among other things. But Schumer likened Cruz’s demands to the children’s fantasy tale, “Alice in Wonderland.”

“He says the president's policies haven't worked, but he hasn't let them go into effect.  He's blocked just about every one,” Schumer said.

The number three Senate Democrat gave a speech earlier in the week where he outlined a plan to divide the tea party rank-and-file and rich backers by talking about popular programs like Medicare that have broad popular support.

“The tea party elites believe government is evil.  Everything about government is bad, and they blame all problems, even non-economic problems, problems that were caused by the private sector, on government.  But the tea party rank-and-file is different,” Schumer said. “They've been fed this line that government is to blame. But when you ask them about specific programs, they are for them….the average middle class person with his or her income declining wants help and they want a government to be not blocked and obstructed as Ted Cruz does all the time, but actually to do things to help them.”

He said Democrats will focus on popular initiatives like raising the minimum wage, making college more affordable and spending money on infrastructure.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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