"It would be the most toxic vote," DeMint said. "I can tell you if you look at the polls, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, they do not think we should increase the debt limit."
Party leaders on both sides of the aisle understand the folly here. If Congress fails to raise the debt limit by early August, the U.S. Treasury will either default on its interest payments to lenders, or have to radically curtail spending on crucial government services, lending to states, and payments to vendors. Either way, the consequences would be negative, most experts agree, and many even say they'd be catastrophic.
But numerous influential Republicans like DeMint have planted seeds of doubt about the stakes in the minds of rank and file members in both the House and Senate. Thus, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will likely face significant defections when the vote comes down. Thus, in one highy plausible scenario, raising the debt limit will require significant Democratic buy-in. And if that's the case, it means the legislative package can't include a GOP wishlist of dramatic spending cuts to big entitlements. But if Republicans don't get what they want out of the debate, more of them will defect, meaning leaders will need more Democratic support, and a less draconian bill, which could trigger further GOP backlash in a dynamic that could end in a debt limit measure that can't pass the Republican-controlled House. That's the nightmare scenario.