Tea Party Caucus meets on debt limit

While all eyes are on the 2011 spending bill fight, Tea Party-backed House Republican members are meeting Monday about another gorilla in the room: the vote to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.

Sometime during March or April, the federal government will no longer be able to borrow money unless Congress raises the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.

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The Tea Party Caucus, home to many GOP freshmen members who are reluctant to increase the limit, will convene at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the upcoming vote.

Caucus leader Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) is against raising the limit under any circumstances, but other members are still making up their minds. Sources do not expect a unified caucus policy statement Monday as discussions will continue.

Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLott says lobbying firm cut ties to prevent him from taking clients Lobbying firm cuts ties to Trent Lott amid national anti-racism protests Bush, Romney won't support Trump reelection: NYT MORE (R-Ohio) and GOP leaders want to combine the debt ceiling vote with more cuts to discretionary spending as a way to placate Tea Party freshmen.

Some conservatives, however, argue that simply cutting off the ability to borrow would cause an immediate 40 percent cut to discretionary and mandatory spending, such as that for entitlements, and that this adjustment is just what the economy needs.

The caucus will hear from a panel of speakers assembled to clarify the issue. Three of the speakers will be local Tea Party leaders and they will be joined by fiscal expert Stan Collender, who now is a blogger for Capital Gains and Games.

The Tea Party Caucus will also hear from Jennifer Stefano, a leader of the suburban Philadelphia Tea Party movement; Billie Tucker, a founder of the Jacksonville, Fla., First Coast Tea Party; and Jamie Radtke, former chairwoman of Virginia Tea Party Patriots.

Collendar told The Hill his role is to explain the mechanics of what will happen if the debt ceiling is not raised, but it will not be his role to try to convince any members to vote for raising it. He said he will note that unlike failing to pass a continuing resolution when funding runs out March 4, failing to pass the debt ceiling bill does not result in an immediate government shutdown.

The Treasury Department can make some moves to delay payments and delay hitting the absolute ceiling. At some point it will have to choose between paying U.S. bondholders and suppliers and vendors to which the United States owes money. The administration argues that using the debt ceiling to make demands is fiscally irresponsible and could cause the country to default on its debt, which would destroy the U.S. bond rating, making it more expensive to borrow in the future and thereby increasing the size of the national debt due to higher interest payments.