House GOP seeing sequester, not debt ceiling, as fight to pick

Orhan Cam/Shutterstock.com

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – Republicans appear to be willing to avoid a showdown over the debt limit and instead use the sequester as their main negotiating lever in upcoming fiscal fights with the White House and Senate Democrats.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Republicans at a closed-door retreat in Williamsburg were weighing a short-term increase in the country’s borrowing limit, giving all sides time to work on a broader fiscal plan in March that would include substantial spending cuts.

“Sometimes you’ve got to lay down a sacrifice bunt,” said Rep. Dennis Ross of Florida about the debt ceiling increase. He said there was a realization among his House GOP colleagues that they had to be ready to deal when negotiations began.

That strategy would represent an about-face for a Republican conference that has now repeatedly denied Speaker John Boehner the support he needed to strike compromises with Democrats.

But a debt-limit fight is one many leading Republicans – including former Speaker Newt Gingrich – were loudly warning against. Gingrich and others have argued that Republicans should reserve what capital they have for negotiations they stand a greater chance of winning, including on legislation that funds the government, reduces spending, and unwinds the coming across-the-board cut known as sequestration.

And it appears clear that even some of the more conservative House Republicans are starting to agree.

“We have no interest in shutting down government. We don’t have to,” said Republican Rep. John Fleming. “The sequestration goes into effect by law and I don’t think the president is going to want the kind of cuts … any more than we do. So we’re on equal footing now.”

Ryan, offering reporters a general rundown on the private talks on spending and budget issues that Speaker John Boehner and rank-and-file House Republicans were holding in a nearby building here, provided no details about the debt-limit offer they were considering. He said it was one of a number of options for proceeding on the various fiscal issues ahead that were being discussed.

The country hit the legal limit on its borrowing on Dec. 31, and Treasury is using “extraordinary measures” to manage the government’s payments. But the United States  is expected to exhaust its ability to use those accounting steps as early as Feb. 15 or as late as March 1. A default could lead to a downgrade of the country’s credit rating and throw financial markets worldwide into chaos.

While some Republicans have wanted to use the debt-limit fight to force spending cuts, Obama is taking a tough line, accusing the GOP of putting the full faith and credit of the United States on the line and saying he will not negotiate over the issue.

Congress also must deal with the sequestration cuts in March and another measure to keep government funded when the current stopgap spending bill expires March 27.

“Our goal is to make sure our members understand all the deadlines that are coming, all the consequences of those deadlines that are coming, in order so that we can make a better informed decision on how to move and how to proceed,” Ryan said.

And as part of that, he said, “We also have to recognize the realities of the divided government we have … the divided government moment we have.”

For House Republicans, the spending and budget issue is the most important fight to have, Ryan said. “We think that the worst thing for the economy is for this Congress and this administration to do nothing to get debt and deficits under control.”

(Image via Orhan Cam /Shutterstock.com)

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.