The good feelings from this weekend's last-minute budget deal to avert a federal government shutdown have already begun to evaporate, with lawmakers from both parties warning on the Sunday talk shows that a bigger fight is yet to come over whether to raise the nation's debt ceiling.
The Treasury Department has said that the government will hit its $14.3 trillion borrowing limit no later than May 16 and run out of tricks for delaying a default by July 8. If Congress fails to approve an increase in the debt ceiling, the U.S. would be at risk of an unprecedented default of its loan obligations. A wide array of economists and Wall Street executives argue that such a default would throw the global economy into disarray and risk the fragile American economic recovery, an argument echoed by Democratic lawmakers.
"If we default on America's debt... it will spin us into a second recession," Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said on CNN.
Democratic and Republican leaders have vowed to stave off such a default by passing legislation to raise the debt ceiling, but many members of the Republican majority in the House—particularly those elected with tea party backing—argue that they would only support such a measure if it were backed by deep spending cuts to cherished Democratic legislative priorities like health care reform.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Senate Budget Committee ranking member Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., brought up a variety of systemic changes that could help secure GOP votes: spending caps, entitlement reforms, and a balanced budget amendment, among others.
"At some point you've got to quit spending money you don't have," Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, the chairman of the Republican Conference, told CNN. "The president is going to have to work with us to cut up the credit cards."
Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., a deficit hawk and tea party favorite, told ABC that he would vote against this weekend's budget deal and wouldn't vote to raise the nation's debt ceiling unless the administration laid out "real and meaningful changes in spending in the short term and in the long term."
Pence's comments sparked a fierce counterattack from Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen, the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, who accused Republicans of being willing to "play a game of chicken on the debt ceiling."
"You will see an economic catastrophe if the United States defaulted on our debt," Van Hollen said on ABC.
In their appearances on the Sunday shows, members of the two parties made clear that they had a fundamental ideological divide when it came to how to balance the nation's fiscal books.
White House senior adviser David Plouffe said President Obama will lay out a "balanced" plan for long-term deficit reduction later this week, including what is certain to be a controversial attempt to raise taxes on the rich.
In an appearance on CNN, Plouffe also took a swipe at House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who released a high-profile debt reduction plan earlier this month that would restructure Medicare by passing more expenses on to the elderly while imposing across-the-board tax cuts. Plouffe said the Ryan plan would save the average millionaire $200,000 per year in taxes, savings he suggested the wealthy neither needed nor deserved.
Ryan told NBC that his plan would eliminate the loopholes in the tax code that disproportionately benefit wealthy Americans, effectively making it harder for the rich to shield their assets from the IRS. But Ryan said he believed formal tax increases on the rich would be both dangerous and unnecessary.
"If you go down the tax increase path, you're sacrificing the economy," he said on NBC.