Republican leaders in Congress made it explicit Sunday: Their caucus won't vote to raise the federal debt ceiling unless President Obama agrees to deep budget cuts.
Legislation keeping the government open and raising the debt ceiling must "carry along with them something really significant on spending and debt," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on NBC's Meet the Press. "Republicans are not going to vote for this increase in the debt limit unless there are serious spending cuts and reforms," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said later on the same program. "That is just the way it is."
Both Cantor and McConnell said that everything, including defense programs, ought to be on the table. Depending on how much tax revenue comes in to the government, the limit on borrowing could have to be raised as early as March or as late May. That vote coincides with a vote on a continuing resolution to fund the government, unless all the 2011 appropriations are passed before then. Congress and the White House agreed in December on a temporary measure to fund the government until March 4.
Republicans have promised to cut $100 billion and to cap spending at 2008 levels. But privately many have said that, while they hope to pin the president down politically by holding votes on those spending levels, they will have to pass a budget with less austere cuts. "We’re going to end up with a negotiating process on it. There’s no doubt about that. But for us to do what we said to the American people we were going to do, and that is pursue a level of spending that is pre-bailout, pre-stimulus is where we’re going to be, and that is again the resolution that will pass on Tuesday. So we will have made it clear where we stand," Rep. David Dreier (R-California) told Politico on Friday.