Harry Reid Signals Willingness To Rumble Over Debt Ceiling

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December 9, 2010 6:03 a.m.

One of the Democrats’ main concerns with the tax cut compromise is about what’s not in the plan: a measure that would increase the amount of debt the United States can legally take on. It gives the Republican an opening to repeat this hostage situation next year when they control the House: agree to raise the debt ceiling, but only if Democrats agree to slash spending programs by billions. Spending cuts or default. You pick!

President Obama flubbed a question earlier this week about whether he’d given the GOP the leverage they need to repeat this scenario early next year when the country hits its debt ceiling. But maybe Dems are more prepared for that fight than critics give them credit for.Briefing reporters yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he’s glad the debt ceiling was left out of this tax package. And he was unusually blunt about why.

“That’s something that we talked about,” Reid said. “My personal feeling is that I’m not sure — and a lot of my caucus doesn’t agree on this — but I think it may be better to do the debt ceiling, raise it next year rather than now.”

Why?

“I want the Republicans to have some buy-in on the debt,” he said. “They’re going to have a majority in the House. I think they should have some kind of a buy-in on the debt. I don’t think it should be when we have a heavily Democratic Senate, a heavily Democratic House and a Democratic president.”

The tax cut bill was probably the only vehicle by which Dems could have averted a filibuster and raised the debt ceiling this year. That ship has sailed, so now the question is whether Democrats will let Republicans set the terms of the debt ceiling debate next year. Republicans have been very clear that they’ll try to use the threat of a default to force spending cuts. Reid seems awfully eager call soon-to-be Speaker John Boehner’s bluff and watch him squirm.

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