Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) just announced he’s foregoing a run for re-eleection to focus full-time on his long-shot bid for the GOP nomination so maybe he’s feeling a little emboldened. Then again, Paul is rarely afraid to state it like is.
[TPM SLIDESHOW: Debt Negotiations At The White House]
Paul was the only GOP House member TPM found Tuesday afternoon willing to take a firm stand against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) plan to hand the White House full authority to raise the debt ceiling with Congress only able to disapprove with a two-thirds vote. Conservative groups, Tea Party members outside Congress and activists are reportedly incensed over McConell’s fall back plan.“I wouldn’t like that,” Paul told TPM. “Congress should assume responsibility for itself” and figure out a way to cut spending.
Paul also dismissed talk that McConnell’s lead trial balloon has undercut Republicans position in the debt talks.
“I don’t think it has much effect,” Paul said. “If it were [Speaker John] Boehner, it would have been a different story because we have the majority” in the House.
Michele Bachmann, a competitor for the GOP primary, declined to comment on the plan.
Other Republican lawmakers were hesitant to offer up an opinion or criticize the Senate GOP leader, although one acknowledged concern in the GOP conference that the McConnell plan undercuts their footing in the negotiations even though the lawmaker noted that he didn’t think it was “well-informed concern.”
An unusually reticent Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) said he hasn’t taken a look at the actual proposal, a common refrain among GOP House members Tuesday. When TPM described the basic tenets, he said only: “I would be surprised if that plan could get 218 votes in the House, but I appreciate [McConnell’s] trying to come up with a plan.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) declined to comment on the specifics of McConnell’s plan, but said that he opposed any type of deal that promises cuts for more than a year because such a proposal would be hypothetical and unenforceable. Instead, Gohmert wants any grand or smaller bargain to include a Balanced Budget Amendment.
Gohmert also charged President Obama and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner with having the power not to declare a default on the nation’s borrowing if they want to.
“There is no risk to default if Geithner and Obama don’t want to,” he said.
Other prominent conservative members of the GOP conference responded by blaming Obama for forcing McConnell to come up with the last-ditch strategy.
“It’s a sad day when you have to force the President of the United States to lead,” said Rep. Tom Price (R-GA).
Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) said Obama “owns” the debt problem because of his spending decisions on the stimulus plans and bank bailouts and should be coming to Congress and asking Republicans what they need to get a debt deal to pass that chamber.
“He’s telling us to eat our peas but the fact is that he is President and his economic policies and spending created this mountain of debt … he owns the problem,” Pence told TPM.
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