House GOP pushes back against short-term debt-ceiling increase

House Republicans are pushing back against suggestions, including from Senate GOP members, that a short-term debt ceiling increase might be acceptable.

The Treasury Department reiterated on Friday that it will not be able to pay all the nation’s bills after Aug. 2 without additional borrowing authority. The White House and Democrats want a debt-ceiling increase that lasts through 2012 and a package of deficit cuts to include hundreds of billion of dollars in tax increases.

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With time running out and the GOP unbending on taxes, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) over the weekend suggested that a short-term “mini” deal could be necessary as a larger package of deficit reduction is negotiated over half a year. On Tuesday he said such a small deal, exchanging spending cuts for a short-term increase, is “more likely than not.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) office said Tuesday that Cantor continues to oppose such an short-term deal.

Cantor “has said repeatedly that he doesn't think a short-term deal could pass the House,” an aide said.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), speaking on the Laura Ingraham Show, also spoke negatively of the idea, arguing that it would take off the pressure for spending cuts.

“What they want to do is buy as much time as possible until the election with as little damage to big government as possible,” he said of the Democrats. “If they can just stall, win in 2012, they can keep us on this path … they just don’t want to take the medicine.”

Later in the program he said he was going to consult with Senate leadership on what the talk of a short-term deal means. In recent weeks Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) have floated the idea as well only to be told by House leaders that it cannot pass.

Twenty-six House members have already signed a pledge demanding a balanced-budget amendment be passed before the debt ceiling is increased. These conservative members have won a House vote in late July on the balanced-budget amendment, and some members worry that crafting a short-term deal will take away momentum from the vote.

Republican Study Committee head Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) is opposed to a short-term deal, as are many other RSC members, because he believes it will remove pressure for deep cuts and changes to the Constitution.

“This is unacceptable because it means an immediate debt-ceiling increase with spending cuts that may or may not come over 10 years. Congressman Jordan can only support a 7-month debt-ceiling increase if it includes immediate spending cuts, caps spending, and we send the balanced-budget amendment to the states as promised in the Cut, Cap, and Balance pledge,” Jordan spokesman Ben Miller said.

Freshman Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said Tuesday that he opposes a short-term increase because it is just putting off hard choices.

“I don’t think there is a whole lot of energy in the House for a short-term increase,” he said. “That takes the pressure off.”

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He said that the GOP has Democrats in a position now where they can get the deep spending cuts they have long sought. He noted that a balanced-budget amendment nearly passed in the 1990s under similar circumstances.

The Oklahoma Republican acknowledged that brinkmanship is not the preferred way to go, but that he is not nervous a deal will fail to materialize.

“I would have preferred that we had dealt with this a long time ago,” he said. “We have known about this debt ceiling vote since January.”

The comments came as House Republicans continued to dig in to oppose tax increases.

Ryan said on the radio that President Obama’s focus on closing a tax loophole for corporate-jet owners was a purely political move, since the $3 billion loophole is “infinitesimally small” compared to the $14.3 trillion debt.

House Republican Policy Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) said any tax increases have to be off the table.

“Republicans in Washington have been clear: we will not entertain the idea of raising taxes as part of a debt-ceiling package,” Price said in a statement.

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