Boehner to GOP: Public is behind us on spending, debt limit fight

A day after being narrowly reelected to his post, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) prepared the Republican rank-and-file for the next big battle over the debt ceiling.

In a closed-door conference meeting Friday morning, Boehner told House Republicans he would insist that an increase in the debt limit be accompanied by spending cuts and that the public was on the GOP’s side.

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“With the [fiscal] cliff behind us, the focus turns to spending,” Boehner said, according to a person in the room. “The president says he isn't going to have a debate with us over the debt ceiling. He also says he's not going to cut spending along with the debt limit hike.”

The Speaker cited a new poll conducted just before the New Year by the Winston Group, a Republican firm, which found that 72 percent of respondents “agree any increase in the nation's debt limit must be accompanied by spending cuts and reforms of a greater amount.”

Boehner first laid out that principle in a 2011 speech in New York, and he has said he will stick to it as Congress debates the debt ceiling in the next two months. The Treasury Department said the nation hit its $16.4 trillion borrowing limit in late December and estimates the next increase must occur before March.

President Obama has vowed not to negotiate over the debt ceiling again, setting up another confrontation in the weeks ahead.

Senate Republican leaders have also said any increase in borrowing authority must be packaged with spending cuts, and Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican, wrote in an op-ed Friday in the Houston Chronicle that it “may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal well being of our country.”