House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) likewise insisted that Republicans hold the line, telling his members they must demand that every dollar they raise the debt limit be paired with commensurate spending cuts.
But other Republicans counseled caution, warning that pressure from the business community and the public to raise the $16.4 trillion federal borrowing limit renders untenable any threats not to do so and will weaken the GOP’s hand if their stance is perceived to be a bluff.
In an appearance Friday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) came out against the strategy of waging a showdown over the debt ceiling, calling the move a “dead loser” for the GOP.
Some Republicans on Capitol Hill are similarly hesitant to entertain the possibility of using a government shutdown or the debt ceiling as bargaining chips.
Rep. Billy Long, a Missouri Republican who first won election in the 2010 tea party wave, voted in favor of the 2011 debt-limit deal in part because “no one knows the ramifications of not passing a debt ceiling increase and this plan prevents us from finding out,” according to a statement he released at the time.
In an interview Friday, Long lamented that the only way Congress seems to do business is in eleventh-hour deals and he balked at the notion of shutting down the government.
“When you’re fighting two wars, it’s just not very practical,” he said of a potential shutdown.
Their remarks came on the heels of an op-ed by Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.) published Friday in the Houston Chronicle. In it, Cornyn argued that Republicans should be prepared to force a partial government shutdown to extract concessions from Democrats on significant spending cuts and entitlement reform.
“It may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal well being of our country, rather than plod along the path of Greece, Italy and Spain,” Cornyn wrote. “President Obama needs to take note of this reality and put forward a plan to avoid it immediately.”
Two other prominent GOP conservatives, Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.) and newly elected Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), have made similar arguments in recent days.
Toomey spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik explained that Toomey’s argument is the same as the one he made in early 2011 — that failing to raise the debt ceiling would not lead to a U.S. default in the short term and that the Treasury Department would rather have to prioritize payments made by the federal government, which could lead to a partial shutdown.
It wasn’t immediately clear from the comments made by Cornyn and Cruz whether they back that argument, which Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has rejected in the past.