Dems Irate As GOP Set To Break Debt Limit Deal

March 8, 2012 8:18 a.m.

Signs mounted Thursday that House Republican leaders, under pressure from their conservative members, will submit a budget that calls for cutting federal programs beneath the levels they agreed to in the bipartisan August debt limit law. Democrats warned that violating the agreement could spark a government shutdown fight later this year.

Echoing Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD), the top Democrat on the Budget Committee, told TPM that the House GOP must not go down that road.

“Look, an agreement is agreement, and they should stick to the agreement,” Van Hollen said in a brief interview. “And not otherwise risk ultimately messing up the entire process, with a worst case scenario of a government shutdown. They should recognize what the risks are in violating an agreement.”The Associated Press and Politico are each reporting that House Republicans are set to get behind a budget resolution below the appropriations caps in the August debt limit law. And even though Senate Democrats are all but certain to reject those levels, one veteran House conservative indicated that the GOP is indeed prepared to pick the fight anyhow.

“What we want to do is get the lowest possible number, and make certain that we get ourselves on a path to a balanced budget,” Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) told TPM. “That’s the goal.”

Asked whether the GOP budget will cut beneath BCA levels, she responded, “We’ll see where we go. We’ve just got to realize that the trajectory of spending has got to be stopped. We need to freeze things, cut things, and make certain that we return this nation to fiscal health.”

Top Republicans have been wary of touching off another battle they’re not likely to win, but have struggled to herd their conservative members who want much deeper cuts to domestic federal programs. Soon after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Budget Committee Republicans met privately to seek a resolution, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) — a top Dem strategist — issued a stern warning to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).

“The Speaker should remember a deal is a deal,” Schumer told reporters at a Capitol briefing with Democratic leadership. “The House Republican leadership should not go back on their word just to quell another uprising by the tea party. Again, he’ll lose, on the budget like on everything else, if [Boehner] lets this small group on the hard right dictate where the whole House should go.”

Asked at his weekly press conference whether he’s prepared to break the debt limit deal, Boehner wouldn’t bite. “Our members are having a discussion about what the budget should look like,” he said, “and I’m waiting for the outcome of those conversations.”

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