April 17, 2011— -- Freshmen congressional members of the Tea Party say they will not vote to raise the debt ceiling without guaranteed structural changes to spending levels.
"The American people sent us here because in a large way they recoiled against a lot of this spending the President was putting upon us," representative Joe Walsh, R-Ill., said. "If you're going to ask this Congress to support a raise in the debt ceiling, there's got to be something structural on the spending side."
Representative Steve Southerland, R-Fla., agreed that guarantees on spending cuts must be made to secure his vote.
"We've got to have some guarantees going forward … that if we raise that debt ceiling, that we get this economy on a trajectory to where we service our debt," Southerland said. "It's going to have to be a lot more than just sweetening it. It's going to have to be concrete."
Fears about catastrophic consequences, like those described by Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner in an interview on "This Week," should not drive the debt ceiling vote, according to Representative Allen West,R-Fla.
"I don't believe in leadership by fear and intimidation. I think that leaders have to come up with viable solutions," said West, who advocated for reducing corporate tax rates to spur growth and a trigger mechanism for automatic spending cuts, which President Obama also proposed last week.
On entitlement reform, Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., touted her support for Republican House budget committee chairman Paul Ryan's proposals to overhaul Medicare and Medicaid, disputing that it would increase costs for seniors.
"Medicare is an issue that we absolutely have to deal with," said Ellmers, who is a nurse. "If we do not address Medicare as it is, it will not be there for myself, it will not be there for our children or our grandchildren."
Walsh said Republicans are leading on entitlement reform regardless of the political fallout, and that they have pushed President Obama to match their proposals.
"The President of the United States ought to be ashamed of himself. Two months ago he presents a budget and doesn't even talk about entitlement reform," Walsh said. "The Republicans are leading on this, perfectly prepared to take whatever political hits we have to take because the crisis is so severe."