As you may have heard, John Boehner is threatening today that Congress will not raise the debt ceiling again this year without spending cuts that are greater than the size of the increase. This sets the stage for a rerun of last year’s massive exercise in GOP hostage taking, which badly damaged Congress’ image, though some neutral observers ultimately concluded Republicans had taken the greater hit.
Democrats are pointing out that it’s a bit surprising to see the House Speaker laying demands down for the next debt deal, when Republicans are trying to reneg on the last one by cancelling the defense cuts mandated by the deficit supercommittee’s failure.
But that aside, where is Mitt Romney on this? Will he support House Republicans in their pronouncement that the debt ceiling shouldn’t be raised — damaging the country’s economy — without spending cuts that exceed the size of the increase? It seems likely he will.
Romney’s position on the debt ceiling hasn’t been easy to pin down. Last summer, he came out against the debt ceiling compromise, an apparent effort to pander to the Tea Party at the start of the GOP primary. He repeatedly slammed Rick Santorum for voting to increase the debt limit as a Senator — more apparent pandering to the right. He’s said he would agree to raise the debt ceiling, but only with “compensating reductions in federal spending.”
There’s a bit of wiggle room there — it’s not really clear what “compensating” means — but this would seem to put him in line with the House Republicans’ current position. So it seems safe to presume that Romney will step forward and back the House GOP on this.
For a long time it seemed likely that Romney would eventually try to achieve separation from the unpopular House GOP. But then Romney continued fully embracing Paul Ryan’s budget. Many observers began to point out that Romney might not be able to move away from House Republicans, for fear of angering conservatives, or even more interestingly, that Romney may be fully convinced that aligning himself with Ryan and House Republicans is good politics. It seems likely Romney will reach the same conclusion about the debt limit: siding with Boehner is a chance to be “bold” on spending, and voters will reward them for being Very Serious.
And so the battle over the debt ceiling — or the preliminary battle over it, at least, since the deadline itself may come after the election — may now unfold in the context of the presidential race.