Redistricting adds to Republican House leaders' debt-ceiling vote pressures

Redistricting is expected to make a House vote on raising the debt ceiling even more difficult for GOP leaders.

Several incumbents find themselves drawn into 2012 battles with sitting colleagues, with the debt-ceiling vote seen as a defining issue, particularly for some House Republicans.

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The pressures add to the problems of GOP leaders, who already know they will face challenges in rallying their members around a deal, if one can be worked out with the White House.

Republicans battling one another to continue their careers in Congress will see a chance to stand out on the debt-ceiling vote.

“It will affect it, because it’s more of a Republican-primary issue than a general-election issue,” Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said of the vote.

Walden, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) deputy chairman, pointed to races in Illinois and California as setting up particular challenges for the GOP.

In Illinois, Reps. Joe Walsh and Randy Hultgren might square off, while a preliminary map in California would pit Rep. Buck McKeon against Rep. Elton Gallegly and Rep. John Campbell against Rep. Dana Rohrabacher.

Members looking to portray themselves as tough on spending aren’t likely to want to cast votes in favor of raising the debt ceiling no matter what deal on spending cuts is worked out by the White House and GOP leaders in conjunction.

It’s unclear which members will be redistricted into fights given uncertainties about the new maps.

Illinois Republicans are challenging the map signed by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, while California Republicans are awaiting the approval of a final redistricting map in August by a citizens commission.

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For members facing redistricting, every vote between now and Election Day will be significant, but their importance will only grow as the election nears, said California GOP political consultant Matt Rexroad, a partner in the firm Meridian Pacific Inc.

In incumbent-versus-incumbent battles, a vote in favor of raising the debt ceiling could be used against an incumbent by someone who voted against raising the debt ceiling.

Tea Party favorite Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) added to the pressure on GOP members when he told ABC News the vote on the debt ceiling would be “toxic” unless members also support a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution, make significant spending cuts and agree to ceilings on spending.


“I can tell you, if you look at the polls, Democrats, Republicans, independents, they do not think we should increase the debt limit,” DeMint said in an interview with ABC.

Last week, a coalition of conservative groups called on lawmakers to sign on to a pledge to “cut, cap and balance” that DeMint has been pushing.

Of the incumbents facing redistricting, Walsh is the only lawmaker to have signed the pledge, endorsed by groups such as known Tea Party backers FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity, Let Freedom Ring and the National Taxpayers Union.

An aide to Hultgren informed The Hill that the lawmaker intends to sign the "cut, cap and balance" pledge in the near future.

McKeon disputed the notion that the debt ceiling will play a role in a race with Gallegly, his 13-term California neighbor.

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Under the preliminary map, Gallegly’s home base would essentially become part of McKeon’s district. McKeon, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, argued his constituents wouldn't be likely to abandon him.

Gallegly told The Hill that a potential match-up against McKeon in McKeon’s district has made him “work very hard at looking at what my options are, not knowing, at the same time, you have to keep your options open.”

The debt-ceiling issue has already become an issue in at least one known general-election incumbent match-up in which Iowa Rep. Tom Latham (R) is taking on Rep. Leonard Boswell (D). Political operatives predict it will be among the most watched House races of 2012.

In early May, Latham told a local Radio Iowa reporter that he opposed any sort of increase in the $14.3 trillion debt limit, but has since clarified to The Hill that any increase must be accompanied by significant spending cuts and budget reforms.

Boswell, known as a centrist in the Democratic Caucus, said in the same Radio Iowa report that Congress must raise the debt limit.