The Note: Debt Ceiling Debate Will Test New Congressional Leadership

Jan 3, 2011 8:47am


With a new Republican majority about to take the reins of power in the House of Representatives, battle lines are already being drawn over the issue of raising the nation’s debt ceiling.

“This is not a game. The debt ceiling is not something to toy with," Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” yesterday.

“If we hit the debt ceiling, that's … essentially defaulting on our obligations, which is totally unprecedented in American history,” he added. “The impact on the economy would be catastrophic.”

The issue is likely to be incoming House Speaker John Boehner’s first real test of power, and several prominent Republicans took to the airwaves yesterday to outline the conditions under which they would vote to raise the ceiling.

“This is an opportunity to make sure that the government is changing its spending ways. I will not vote for the debt ceiling increase until I see a plan in place that will deal with our long-term debt obligations, starting with Social Security and real bipartisan efforts to make sure that Social Security stays solvent” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “On the spending side, I'm not going to vote for a debt ceiling increase unless we go back to 2008 spending levels, cutting discretionary spending.”

Rep. Michele Bachmann went a step further, saying on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that she was “not in favor of raising the debt ceiling.”

But as ABC’s Rick Klein noted on Sunday, “All involved acknowledge that defaulting on the nation's debt is not a viable option, yet dozens of new members of Congress vowed to oppose all new borrowing, as a means of forcing spending cuts.”

The new Congress will likely be forced to make a choice about raising the debt ceiling in the first few months of the year. The national debt, now in the $13.8 trillion range, is climbing toward the current limit of $14.3 trillion.

ABC’s  Jake Tapper sat in for Christiane Amanpour on “This Week” yesterday. Check out his annotated version of the show with video:

And more from Jon Karl and Z. Byron Wolf on the Congressional GOP's new year's resolutions — repeal, resist and invesitgate:

RNC DEBATE. With less than two weeks to go until members of the Republican National Committee pick a chairman, the five candidates vying for the position — Michael Steele, Saul Anuzis, Maria Cino, Reince Priebus and Ann Wagner — will participate in a debate today sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform and The Daily Caller. The debate takes place from 1-2 p.m. at the National Press Club and will be aired live on C-SPAN.   

NOTED: One RNC chairman contender who was slated to participate today — Gentry Collins — announced last night that he was dropping out of the race. Collins, the RNC’s former political director who resigned in protest of Steele’s leadership, penned a letter to supporters saying that he was bowing out. “I believe that there are several qualified candidates in the race for Chairman, each of whom would do a fine job leading the committee through the 2012 Election cycle,” he wrote. “Ann, Maria, Reince, and Saul are all outstanding candidates, and any of them would move the committee in a positive direction.”

HEYE TO LEAVE RNC. “Doug Heye, communications director of the Republican National Committee and one of D.C.'s best known young GOP operatives, said Sunday night that he plans to leave his job after next week's RNC winter meeting, when a new chairman will be chosen,” Politico’s Amie Parnes notes. “The North Carolina-native said he is satisfied with the work he did to drive the GOP message ‘under difficult circumstances,’ and to help win back the House of Representatives.”



OBAMA SIGNS 9/11 BILL. “While on vacation, from his beachfront rental home in Kailua, Hawaii, President Obama has signed the 9/11 responders bill,” ABC’s Sunlen Miller and Yunji de Nies report. “The $4.2 billion bill passed unanimously in the final week of Congress’ session before lawmakers adjourned for the year. Despite its popularity, the 9/11 health bill was delayed in the Senate by Tom Coburn, R-Ola., who came under criticism for opposing the bill on the grounds that it provided ‘overly generous funding’ and included ‘unnecessary and duplicative compensation funds.’ Under the deal worked out in the Senate and approved in the House, the total cost of the bill over 10 years would be reduced from $6.2 billion to $4.2 billion. Of that $4.2 billion, $1.5 billion will go to health benefits for the first responders, while $2.7 billion will go to compensation for them.”

Video of the morning: Who will take on Obama in 2012? ABC's Claire Shipman's look at the short-list of contenders for the Republican nomination.

TIM KAINE’S FUTURE. “Tim Kaine, who has been chairman of the Democratic National Committee for two years, on Sunday shot down rumors that he wants to leave the job for a cabinet position or another job in government,” The New York Times’s Sewell Chan reports. “Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, had been mentioned as a possible replacement. ‘My agreement with the president is I was going to do what he wants me to do,’ Mr. Kaine said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” when asked about the rumors. “And what I know sitting here today is he wants me to continue in this spot and that’s what I’m going to do with excitement.’”

NOTED: In his appearance on CNN, Kaine also weighed in on whether or not President Obama would face a primary opponent: “It's possible, but I think the likelihood of any challenge to the president is virtually nil, and I think the president's strong performance, and especially the three major accomplishments at the end of the year make it even smaller.”

VOICES FROM THE GOVS. Politics Daily’s Carla Baranauckas notes that 37 governors will be kicking off new terms this year. Read excerpts from their inaugural addresses here:

Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico (R): “We cannot just hang on. We cannot just endure misfortune and wait for our luck to change. We don't wait on destiny here. We make our destiny. In New Mexico we will shape our own destiny and we won't stand still. We will act. We will make our opportunities. We will dream. We will work. We will risk. We will improve. We will try. And if we fail, we will try harder.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York (D): “New York faces a deficit, a deficit that we talk about all day long: the budget deficit, the budget deficit. But it's actually worse. The state faces a budget deficit and a competence deficit and an integrity deficit and a trust deficit. And those are the obstacles we really face.”



@pwire: Why Huntsman won't run for president in 2012…

@CantorPress: Schedule update: Vote for Speaker will take place early afternoon on Wednesday. #newmajority

@GOP12: Pawlenty: There's plenty of time for little-known Prez candidates to raise national profile

@MPOTheHill: Steele grades his tenure at the RNC as a "solid B."

 @JakeSherman: My morning story: @DarrellIssa's first investigations include Wikileaks, Afghanistan and lots on the economy.


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