To set up a Debt Ceiling showdown.
Though the House GOP
May well disagree,
It's a road I intend not to go down."
Battle lines have been drawn over the increase in the federal debt limit, which must happen by March to avoid a government shutdown and likely default. President Barack Obama gave a press conference yesterday in which he pledged not to negotiate with the House GOP over the debt ceiling increase, saying that such crisis-fueled, eleventh-hour bargaining is no way to run the government. The crux of the President's argument is that the Congress cannot refuse to incur the debts for the spending it has already approved; he likened it to beginning a diet by walking out on the rich meal you've just had, without paying the check.
For their part, Republicans clearly intend to use any available leverage to force a reduction in federal outlays, regardless of default risk: House Speaker John Boehner, while acknowledging the economic harm that would come from a default, said: "The American people do not support raising the debt ceiling without reducing government spending at the same time."
However, the Washington Post's Greg Sargent thinks the Senate Democrats may hold the trump card: if the House passes a bill with both a debt ceiling increase along with big Medicare and Social Security cuts, the Senate could simply amend the bill by stripping out the cuts, and send it back. Sargent believes that the Senate GOP is more politically realistic, and would not filibuster the amendment.
Bottom line: at this point, it's too soon to say that America has passed the era of banana republic politics.