Pawlenty warns GOP not to cave on debt ceiling vote; 'Let's call their bluff'

Former Minnesota governor and likely 2012 presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty (R) is warning Republicans in Congress not to vote in favor of raising the debt ceiling. 

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Pawlenty said Republicans need to use the coming debt ceiling vote as leverage to enact some real spending concessions from Democrats, suggesting that GOP leaders were wrong to acknowledge that raising the debt limit is unavoidable.  

"This debate about how we're going to restructure spending is inevitable," Pawlenty told the paper. "My view is, let's have it now. Let's call their bluff."    

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The former governor, who just launched a book tour that will take him through both Iowa and New Hampshire during the next month, said the same in an interview on "Fox News Sunday." Pawlenty's advice to members of his party: "You've got to draw some lines in the sand." 

Pawlenty proposed a legislative fix that would prioritize paying the federal government's debt obligations over other federal spending. That, he suggested, would stave off the need for a debt limit increase until later in the year.

The former governor's comments come as the rhetoric over the looming debt ceiling vote heats up.

Also on Sunday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he was pleased to hear House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) again acknowledge the debt limit will ultimately have to be raised, warning of a new economic depression if Congress fails to raise the limit.  

Both House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Cantor have said the debt limit eventually must be increased, something Cantor reiterated over the weekend at the party's retreat in Baltimore, but both have also said they want significant concessions from Democrats on spending before House Republicans agree. 

Last week, a handful of House Republicans expressed some support for the idea of tying any increase in the debt limit to a vote on a constitutional balanced budget amendment.