Pence: Debt ceiling debate offers unique opportunity for GOP

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Opinion Zone,Tina Korbe

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) wants his Republican colleagues to think big and bold as they face a series of crucial votes in the coming weeks on the 2011 continuing resolution, debt ceiling increase and next year’s budget.

Speaking earlier this week at a post-State of the Union event, Pence said if Republicans are to remain committed to their convictions, they must harness these arguments -- particularly the discussion of the debt ceiling -- to achieve important priorities.

“The opportunity to pile good ideas on top of legislation that has to pass in some way is profound,” he said. “I think you’ll see House conservatives and Republican leadership use every means at their disposal to make sure that we turn our nation back, that, as we debate a debt ceiling, that we’re turning our nation back toward a lodestar of a balanced budget.”

Conservatives have repeatedly encouraged House GOP leaders to enact spending cuts during the continuing resolution and a budget debate. Pence said they should be aimed at the goal post.

Republicans have promised to return spending to 2008 levels, but there’s fear among conservatives that the proposal leadership offers won’t hit the $100 billion mark -- a promise included in the GOP’s Pledge to America.

Nearly 90 members of the Republican Study Committee have asked House leaders to stick to that figure. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said he will allow an open amendment process when the House moves to hammer out a continuing resolution in February, meaning conservatives could counter leadership’s proposal with their own.

“[The continuing resolution] is going to be the first fulcrum and I expect it’ll be a vigorous debate,” Pence said.

The House GOP has also committed to craft an actual budget this year -- something Congress didn’t do last year. Under the leadership of Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, the House will produce what Pence called “a very clear outline of what Republicans intend to do on domestic spending and defense and even on entitlements, as well.”

But Pence stressed that Republicans didn’t write their own mandate: The American people did on Election Day 2010.

“The American people are in the saddle,” he said. “The American people are leading the majority party today. … If we can seize a moment here and recognize that clear voice of the American people that spoke in historic terms on Election Day, I think we have the possibility to come together and to work in the long-term best interest of the American people and put ourselves on a pathway toward fiscally sustainable spending as well as economic growth.”

And, in fact, when it comes to the debt ceiling, Pence is right: The majority of Americans have demanded a shrewd debate. They either do not want a debt ceiling increase at all (40 percent) or think the limit should be increased only if it incorporates significant spending cuts (32 percent), according to recent research by Public Notice.

Tina Korbe is a staff writer in the Center for Media and Public Policy, an investigative journalism outlet at The Heritage Foundation.

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