Will Senate Republicans Throw Boehner Under The Bus In Debt Limit Fight?

Are Senate Republicans prepared to throw House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) under the bus in the debt limit fight?

Some apparently would be — though they obviously don’t come right out and say it. Senate Republican leaders and aides say they will not vote for a debt limit hike without deep spending cuts, including to entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. But they also say that defaulting is not an option. That leaves two possible outcomes. Either Democrats fold and agree to dramatic cuts, with no new revenues. Or Democrats hold firm, in which case Senate Republicans would be happy to let Democrats raise the debt limit in an up or down vote.“My advice to any of my colleagues who will listen is, We should vote against it and let those people who vote for it explain why it was they couldn’t stop the spending free and raising the limit on our maxed-out credit card,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told reporters after the weekly GOP leadership press conference, outside the Senate chamber. “There’s no reason — I see no incentive at all for Republicans in the Senate to vote for it unless we get something real, and by that I mean something systemic. … I agree with Senator [Mitch] McConnell: Unless it does something about entitlements, it’s just superficial.”

I asked whether defaulting on the debt is a less-bad option than failing to lock in these entitlement cuts. “There’s not going to be a default on the debt,” Cornyn responded. “We’ll just let our Democratic friends vote to raise the debt limit in the Senate.”

This is a real contingency for Republicans, aides confirmed. The problem, of course, is that it would leave Boehner holding the ball, forced to pass an increase in the debt limit on Democratic terms. He insists that’s not an option.

“[L]et me be as clear as I can be. Without significant spending cuts and reforms to reduce our debt, there will be no debt limit increase,” Boehner said yesterday. “And the cuts should be greater than the accompanying increase in debt authority the president is given.”

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