McConnell: GOP ready for debt-ceiling fight

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday predicted a springtime fight will erupt over the debt ceiling because the GOP will make demands in exchange for increasing it. 

“I doubt if the House, or for that matter the Senate, is willing to give the president a clean debt-ceiling increase," McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, said. "The debt ceiling legislation is a time that brings everyone together and gets the president’s attention."
 
McConnell was able to negotiate discretionary spending caps, including the automatic sequester spending cuts, as a condition of Congress raising the debt ceiling in 2011. In October he had less success in securing concessions from Democrats and the Obama administration in exchange for raising the debt ceiling through Feb. 7. The October deal, coming during an unpopular government shutdown, merely required an ObamaCare report on potential fraud.
 
The October experience is not detering the GOP from trying to use the must-pass legislation to try to rein in spending and the national debt. 
 
“I can’t imagine it being done clean. We’ll have to see what the House insists on," McConnell said. 
 
Already ObamaCare is reemerging as a possible flashpoint for the debt ceiling just as it was during the 16-day government shutdown. 
 
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Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said Tuesday he wants to demand ObamaCare changes as a condition of raising the debt ceiling. He said giving individuals the legal right to keep their current insurance policies would be one option. 
 
"I'd love to take a look whether we can attach to the debt ceiling a piece of legislation to preserve freedom of choice in the healthcare system, or allow people to keep their employer-sponsored plans, which is going to be the next shoe to drop," he said.
 
Democrats say any talk of tying ObamaCare, tax reform or entitlement changes to the debt ceiling is an economically irresponsible attempt at blackmail.

"I think it's the height of irresponsibility and amnesia, forgetting the lessons they learned two months ago not to play those games with the American economy," Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said. 

He said President Obama was wrong to negotiate over the debt limit in 2011 and agree to the sequestration caps, and was right in October to refuse to pay a ransom for it being raised until Feb. 7.
 
"That precedent was set. It was a bad precedent then, it is a good precedent now," he added. 
 
The White House said this week that Obama is not willing to negotiate over the debt ceiling.