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Republican Leaders Will Pick Yet Another Debt Ceiling Fight

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AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite

The remarks echo those made recently by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) that congressional Republicans won't agree to a "clean" debt limit increase without policy add-ons or strings attached. It's unclear what they'll demand in return, though.

The GOP's apparent desire for another debt ceiling fight is confounding after the party forced one last fall and surrendered one day before the deadline without extracting any concessions. President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders insist they won't negotiate or give up anything to raise the debt ceiling, and Republicans raised (or suspended) the borrowing limit twice last year without extracting any policy concessions -- after initially threatening not to both times.

It's also notable because Republicans and Democrats wrapped up a $1.012 trillion spending bill last week, which passed on an overwhelming bipartisan vote. The debt limit has to be raised in order to finance that spending.

The remarks from Boehner's office and other top Republicans suggest that leaders will have a hard time persuading their members not to pick another battle, even if it is futile. The Speaker said last year on Oct. 6 that the House was "not going to pass a clean debt limit increase" because there weren't enough votes to pass one. Ten days later, he brought up a clean debt limit hike and it easily passed the House, with mostly Democratic votes. Democrats don't take GOP threats of default seriously after they've proven they aren't willing to shoot the hostage.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters last week that Democrats' position is unchanged: lifting the debt ceiling is non-negotiable.

Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) demanded Wednesday that Republicans agree to raise the debt limit "with no strings attached."

"With the bipartisan agreements on the budget and on funding the government for this year, we have an opportunity to move past the manufactured crises and work together on real challenges," she said in a statement to TPM. "I hope Republicans will listen to Secretary Lew and join Democrats to ensure the U.S. pays its bills on time with no strings attached."

About The Author

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Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.