Partisan battle lines drawn over debt ceiling

(CBS News) WASHINGTON - Washington barely had time to catch its breath after reaching a deal on raising taxes -- and battle lines are already emerging for the next showdown.

This week, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner reported that the U.S. government has reached its borrowing limit: $16.4 trillion. This means that Congress and the president have roughly two months to work out a deal to raise that limit. Republicans are saying no deal without spending cuts.

President Obama returns from Hawaii to a capital city in full inaugural regalia. Republicans have their demands on spending cuts, but Mr. Obama has an inflexible demand of his own: no negotiations over raising the debt ceiling

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The grand stage at the Capitol is nearly complete. So, too, is the presidential reviewing stand just outside the White House gate.

The first family's Hawaiian vacation, carved up by fiscal cliff drama, ends Saturday. The president used his weekly address to tell the nation that raising the debt ceiling to avoid a government default is a problem for Congress.

"One thing I will not compromise over," said the president in his address, "is whether or not Congress should pay the tab for a bill they've already racked up. If Congress refuses to give the United States the ability to pay its bills on time, the consequences for the entire global economy could be catastrophic."

Top advisers say the president will never again -- as he did in 2011 -- get pulled into that debate. But Republicans want a fight, tying the debt ceiling to the spending cuts required by the fiscal cliff.

"We're crushing today's small businesses and the next generation of Americans under a mountain of debt," said GOP Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan.

They see an opening at the end of February when the debt limit -- now $16.4 trillion -- comes up, as do mandatory spending cuts in the tens of billions.

"It's time to face up to the fact that our nation is in grave fiscal danger -- grave fiscal danger-- and that it has everything to do with spending," said GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell.

With income taxes raised now, Republicans contend they own the spending debate. To complicate matters, the government runs out of funds for day-to-day operations at the end of March, meaning all three of these deadlines will soon converge. That means the president can tell himself he's not trading spending cuts for an increase in the debt ceiling, but he probably will be -- at least indirectly.

  • Major Garrett

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