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Cracks Emerge In GOP Debt Limit Offensive

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In a Wall Street Journal interview, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) described the debt limit as "one point of leverage," before acknowledging that it is "not the ultimate leverage."

Though he will still insist on a dollar in spending cuts for every new dollar Congress provides the administration in borrowing authority, Boehner now envisions the fight playing out in a series of weeks-long increases in the debt limit -- an admission that Obama won't agree to hundreds of billions, or trillions dollars in spending cuts outright.

Instead, Boehner now says the sequester, which includes deep defense cuts Republican abhor, represents a greater, more realistic source of GOP leverage.

On CBS News Sunday morning, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) dodged a series of questions about the debt limit and would not commit to holding Obama to Boehner's dollar-for-dollar rule.

Newt Gingrich -- who attempted a less aggressive version of the debt limit hostage taking strategy during his speakership -- has warned Republicans that their strategy will ultimately collapse.

"Everybody's now talking about, 'Oh, here comes the debt ceiling,'" he said on MSNBC. "I think that's, frankly, a dead loser. Because in the end, you know it's gonna happen. The whole national financial system is going to come in to Washington and on television, and say: 'Oh my God, this will be a gigantic heart attack, the entire economy of the world will collapse. You guys will be held responsible.' And they'll cave."

A recent editorial in the conservative Wall Street Journal called the GOP's strategy into question as well.

If cracks are forming in the GOP's offensive, Democrats don't have to resort to unconventional means of circumventing the debt limit so quickly -- and may not have to at all, unless Republican divisions are so severe that they simply can't manage to increase it in a clean way.

About The Author

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Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com