WASHINGTON - Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., said on "Face the Nation" Sunday that she is not in favor of raising the government's debt ceiling, which if not dealt with could shut down the government as early as March.
The government is authorized to borrow up to $14.3 trillion, but that limit is expected to be reached in a few months. Congress must vote to increase the borrowing ceiling before the capacity is reached, or the U.S. could be forced to default on its debt, which would shut down government operations.
Bachmann told moderator Harry Smith that at this point she would not vote for raising the ceiling.
"Congress has had a big party the last two years. They couldn't spend enough money. And now they're standing back, folding their arms, saying, oh, taunting us - 'How are you going to go ahead and solve this big spending crisis?'" Bachmann said about the Democrats. She said that she has started a petition on her Web site urging voters to tell their representatives to oppose raising the debt ceiling.
Republican Representative-elect Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania went further.
"Raising the debt ceiling to me is absolutely irresponsible. We've been spending money for so long that we don't have and keep saying, 'Well, it's OK, we'll just raise taxes, we'll find it somewhere,'" Kelly said.
Rep. Andrew Weiner, D-N.Y., rebuked Kelly and Bachmann for their positions.
"The first thing the Republicans did when they took back the House the last time is they drove the government to a shutdown," Weiner said. "I guess from what I've heard Michele say and you say, that's what's going to happen again."
Bachmann accused Weiner of maligning the Republicans: "You've got it exactly wrong. That is not what we're looking to do. You're stating it falsely. We are not looking to go shut the government down. No one benefits. But at the same time we're not looking at wanting to continually raise the debt ceiling. That's something that the Democrats want to do," she said.
"I don't know what you call it, but that's shutting down the government," Weiner retorted.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., did not take a stand either way, deferring to what the new House leadership will propose. "I'm going to wait and see the direction that the Republicans want to take our policies," she said.
President Obama's top economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee, said today that it would be "insanity" for Congress to refuse to lift the borrowing ceiling. Goolsbee warned that it would cause "a worse financial and economic crisis than anything we saw in 2008."
Finding common ground in little else, Democrats and Republicans were both unimpressed by President Obama's push for bipartisanship, especially when the new Congress convenes with the Republicans in charge of the House of Representatives, saying that the two sides won't work together just for the sake of compromise.
Weiner said that "bipartisanship has to be a means. It's not an end. And that if just having a bipartisan deal means success, that's not right. It has to reflect the values of this country and the constituents that I represent." Weiner said he did not vote for Pres. Obama's tax cut compromise because it "blew a hole in the budget" and that the president was yielding too much to the GOP.
Kelly didn't much agree with anything else Weiner said and even launched a personal attack against the Democrat. ("You're very amusing. In your life you have never done everything on your own with your own skin in the game," Kelly said to Weiner on the show.) But he took Weiner's tough stance on bipartisanship and ran with it, illustrating the difficulties in Republicans and Democrats working together in the House.
"Just to say we did something in a bipartisan manner, just to show that we can agree, is not good unless it was something that was good for the whole country," Kelly said.
Kelly, who owns a big car dealership in the town of Butler and aggressively cast himself as a Washington outsider, also voiced hostility toward House incumbents. "I don't know how in the world you folks go home and look these people in the eye and say, 'We've done a great job.' Your country is $14 trillion in debt," Kelly said.
"Running something $14 trillion in the red is not impressive. If you run $14 trillion in the black I'm impressed," he said.
Bachmann said that what the Democrats and Republicans have in common is an urgency to work to reduce the deficit. But while Democrats say it was President George W. Bush who ballooned the debt and caused the financial crisis that necessitated government bailouts and stimulus spending, Bachmann put the blame squarely on the Democrats' shoulders
"I would say if they want to engage in deficit reduction, that's exactly what we want to engage in, is deficit reduction," Bachmann said. "But it's so interesting, Harry, for two years these were big wild party spenders. Now they're interested in deficit reduction."
Schultz rebuked that claim.
"Let's remember the deficit was exploded by Republicans. President Bush inherited a record surplus and turned it into a record deficit. Two wars unpaid for, a prescription drug plan unpaid for, tax cuts unpaid for. So the deficit that we found ourselves in was thanks to the Republicans," she said.
Schultz said that she's willing to work with conservatives, but that her party will have to "measure everything that the Republicans propose by whether it creates jobs, turns the economy around and cuts the deficit."
"We Democrats are prepared to work with them where we can, but we're going to challenge them and fight against them where we must," Weiner added.
"It's their ship to run now. That's their responsibility. This is an adult game now."