Rand Paul: GOP revolt on hiking debt limit will eclipse spending deal

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Monday that he expects more GOP opposition to raising the debt ceiling than for the agreement forged to the fund government for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year.

If Paul is correct, it will make it tougher for congressional leaders to win the votes necessary to raise the ceiling. It would be particularly difficult for House Republican leaders, who have had to wrestle with a number of conservatives that dug in and demanded more cuts in the 2011 spending debate. 

"I think the debt ceiling, many of the Republicans are now going to vote against it," Paul said Monday evening on the Fox Business Network. "More will vote against it than voted against the spending plans. And we'll see what happens. I'm not sure exactly what the count will be."

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Fifteen Senate Republicans voted against the deal in a mid-April vote. In the House, 59 Republicans voted against it

GOP leaders will be able to win over more of their members if they can win spending-cut concessions from Democrats and the White House. Republicans are set to demand immediate spending cuts in exchange for authorizing an increase in the limit, but they also want structural reforms, such as a proposed balanced-budget amendment, attached to the vote.

Republicans have maintained they don't view a default on U.S. debt as an option, though they've also toyed rhetorically with the possibility of not allowing a House vote if the Obama administration doesn't agree to sufficient concessions. The Treasury Department said Monday that a vote to increase the debt limit must be held no later than Aug. 2.