Burned by the fact that their prescription for reducing the deficit and increasing the national borrowing limit either can't pass in Congress or doesn't cut spending enough to warrant, in their minds, a significant debt ceiling hike, House Republicans returned to the Capitol Tuesday to ratchet up their demands, and shirk responsibility for avoiding default.
"Where's the President's plan?" asked House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) at a press stakeout after a GOP caucus meeting. "When's he going to lay his cards on the table? This debt limit increase is his problem."
This is a massive departure for Boehner and the GOP, who before the debt limit brinksmanship became central to U.S. politics, regularly acknowledged that raising the debt limit was his, and Congress', imperative. Today, he and other caucus leaders answered President Obama's demand that the GOP figure out a way to raise the debt limit through 2012 by offering to toss non-starter Republican wish-list items back into the negotiating mix.
"Real controls like a Balanced Budget Amendment," Boehner suggested, referring to a Republican-authored Constitutional ban on incurring budget deficits that would make raising taxes functionally impossible, and thus require filleting entitlement programs.
"You need to put back on the table some of the items that [you] took off early on," said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), vice-chair of the House GOP caucus. Those items include the same Balanced Budget Amendment, as well as a full repeal of the health care law, which, according to the Congressional Budget Office, would increase deficits by hundreds of billions of dollars.
Republican and Democratic leaders will return to the White House Tuesday afternoon -- but they're still miles from a deal that can pass the Congress, and sidestep a debt default, which becomes a real risk in just three weeks.