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Is the Debt Limit Fight Over Already?

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There are several signs House Republicans will agree to raise the debt ceiling without demanding huge concessions in spending cuts. "Several different people have emailed to say the House GOP in Williamsburg has agreed to raise the debt ceiling with no fight," RedState's Erick Erickson tweeted. (The House GOP is on its annual retreat in Williamsburg, Virginia; Erickson sometimes gets tipoffs on big conservative news, like Jim DeMint quitting the Senate to run the Heritage Foundation.) In  The Wall Street Journal Thursday, former GOP budget aide Keith Hennessey suggested Republicans agree to raise the debt limit a large amount -- enough to last five years or so -- only if President Obama agrees to spending cuts. Otherwise they should raise it only enough to last a few months. Rep. Paul Ryan echoed that Thursday, telling reporters, "We’re discussing the possible virtue of a short-term debt limit extension so that we have a better chance of getting the Senate and the White House involved in discussions in March." And the Tea Party Express conceded that the debt limit would have to be raised soon to avoid default, The Washington Post's Greg Sargent points out, even if the group thinks the limit can be lowered sometime in the future.

Raising the debt ceiling only a little bit would mean we'd have to go through this whole thing again in a couple months. The Daily Beast's David Frum doesn't see the benefit for Republicans: "I'd have thought that a Republican House member would prefer to cast this unpleasant vote just once, rather than over and over again." New York's Jonathan Chait agrees. But perhaps it's a small step toward accepting certain realities, like that default would be bad for the economy. Ryan told reporters he and Rep. David Camp had spent time explaining how the debt ceiling works to new representatives; only a few days ago, Politicoreported House leaders thought the White House "doesn't understand how hard it will be to talk restive conservatives off the fiscal ledge." And here's another reality Ryan has embraced: "We also have to recognize the realities of the divided government that we have."

Update: Louisiana Rep. John Fleming floats letting the debt limit being increased with Democratic votes in the House. In an interview with Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler, Fleming says, "We could pass it [a debt limit bill] from the House to the Senate with what we want, and then the Senate could always revise and send it back and who knows, maybe there’d be enough Democrat votes to get it passed."

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