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POLITICS

Republicans offer to delay fight over debt ceiling, but with a catch

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House Republican leaders devised a plan to delay a political battle over whether to raise the nation's debt ceiling, but while Democrats expressed interest in the plan, conservatives inside the GOP are decidedly uneasy about the proposal.

The Republican plan would delay the contentious debate over whether the government should borrow more money until May 19. White House spokesman Jay Carney on Tuesday said the president is prepared to sign the proposal into law, even though the proposal comes with a catch.

The offer, up for a House vote on Wednesday, requires the democratically controlled Senate to approve a budget, a painful and politically risky task lawmakers have dodged for the past four years. If the Senate fails to pass a budget, lawmakers would stop receiving paychecks, at least temporarily.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has yet to sell the plan to his rank and file, and the most fiscally conservative fear the move could lead to more debt without the spending reductions they have long sought.

Conservative pundits joined in to denounce the proposal, noting that Republicans already gave in to President Obama by agreeing to raise taxes on the wealthy without securing any additional spending cuts.

"Speaker Boehner plans another GOP cave, not interested in spending cuts or size of government," conservative activist Brent Bozell said on Twitter.

Republicans are urging colleagues to support the debt ceiling deal, noting that Boehner has promised to seek a deal that balances the federal budget in 10 years.

"If they cave again, they are going to have some problems in the House because there are a large number of House Republicans who are very dissatisfied with what is happening," said Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, one of a handful of Republicans who voted against reappointing Boehner as speaker earlier this month.

The nation reached its $16.4 trillion borrowing limit on Dec. 31, but the Treasury took action to extend it until mid-February. If lawmakers don't have a deal by then, the government would default on its obligations and shut down.

That happened in 2011, during the last fight over the debt ceiling, a fight that resulted in the downgrading of the United States' bond rating for the first time.

"The House Republicans made a decision to back away from the kind of brinkmanship that was very concerning to the markets, very concerning to business, very concerning to the American people," Carney said at the White House.

Republicans believe forcing Democrats to craft a budget will create a starting point for a plan that reduces the nation's spending.

It would also force Senate Democrats to go on the record with their spending priorities, which could politically hurt a bevy of moderate Senate Democrats up for re-election in 2014.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., suggested Democrats could devise a budget that raises taxes to raise new revenue, though that too carries political risks.

"I think what the House is saying, above all else, is ... what is their idea about raising the debt ceiling?" Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said after meeting privately with GOP Senate lawmakers on Tuesday.

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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