Rep. Pence: Debt ceiling is Obama's problem

Indiana gubernatorial hopeful, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) fired up his Republican colleagues at a closed-door meeting, telling them to reframe the debt-ceiling debate as President Obama’s problem.

Following a nearly 30-minute briefing by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on each step of the debt-reduction negotiations with Democrats to date, the former GOP Conference chairman stood up during open microphone time at Tuesday’s conference, imploring his colleagues to reframe the debt-ceiling debate.

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“This is the president’s problem. We are running up against the debt ceiling because the president has promoted policies of borrowing and spending and bailouts and takeovers. This administration should be coming to us and asking what we need to get them out of this problem,” Pence said.

He explained to The Hill following the hour-and-a-half meeting, “My view is that the president’s been sitting back and telling us what he needs from the Congress, in the way of higher taxes. What I said to our colleagues is: We need to take three steps back and remind the administration and the American people that this is his problem."

Pence said he told his colleagues that leaders should tell the president that Congress is “willing to help you solve this problem,” but that any “help” must include cutting “spending by more than a dollar for every dollar for increase in debt ceiling." 

"We need to cap spending [by] law and we need to make any increase in the debt ceiling contingent on sending a balanced-budget amendment to the states for ratification.”

Pence’s insistence that a deal must include the passage of a balanced-budget amendment would mean that the Senate, not just the House, would have to pass the constitutional amendment. GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) has indicated that the Senate is not likely to support the balanced-budget amendment.

GOP House members applauded his remarks, North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) shouted “Great job, Mike,” as she walked by Pence following the meeting. 

Pence and freshman Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) said that there is overwhelming support for the requirement that Congress pass a balanced-budget amendment before a deal to raise the debt ceiling is reached.

The House is set to vote on the balanced-budget amendment next week.

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Though Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has been a longtime supporter of a balanced-budget amendment, and said that a deal “should” include one, it wasn’t clear whether he believes that a deal to raise the current $14.3 trillion debt limit, should be contingent on sending one to the states for ratification.

According to members who attended the extended House GOP conference meeting, Boehner and Cantor revealed that they had discussed mandatory spending caps in the context of extending the debt limit during their negotiations with the White House.

Southerland told The Hill that he was pleased to hear the two GOP leaders note the inclusion of capping spending.

“(The leaders) wanted caps to be part of this plan, and I was very pleased because in the cut, cap and balance, that’s one of the legs on the stool,” Southerland said.

Southerland also said that there was no question that Boehner and Cantor were on the same page, and have been, throughout the weeks of negotiations with the White House on raising the debt ceiling despite reports to the contrary.

“Today I was very satisfied, that they were on the same page," Southerland said. "I’ve met with them one on one. Today they were on the same page; they never contradicted each other and they were very fluid in how they worked together in answering each other’s questions."

But it was unclear how the two leaders received Pence’s advice to “take three steps back” and reframe the message as Obama’s problem.

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