WASHINGTON – In the first major survey of House Republicans’ attitudes toward raising the debt limit, more than half say they are committed to opposing more borrowing and only 22 of 241 take their leadership’s position that approving more borrowing past the $14.3 trillion limit is essential.
The survey was conducted by WND through calls and e-mails to the offices of members and, when direct responses were not forthcoming, public statements made by the officials were used.
The results are staggering in their lopsidedness, because it takes only 218 votes in the Republican-controlled House to block any effort to raise the debt limit – an action that would precipitate the most drastic cuts in federal government programs in modern history.
A total of 121 House Republicans are already committed to opposing any additional hike in the debt limit, while 55 others say they would support the hike with conditions – most of which include spending cuts or a balanced budget. An additional 43 members say they are undecided.
House Speaker John Boehner has repeatedly said publicly that the debt limit will have to be raised, at the same time pushing for spending cuts. Boehner believes failure to raise the debt limit will result in defaults on loan obligations and poses danger to the government’s credit rating, an assessment he shares with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
But the Heritage Foundation, CATO Institute and Investors Business Daily have all downplayed the threat of defaults with studies showing the government can still service the interest on the existing debt with tax revenues if substantial cuts in the budget are made.
In response to the survey results, Mike Steel, spokesman for Boehner, told WND: “The speaker has made it clear that while the president is begging us to raise the debt limit without cutting spending that is obviously unacceptable to the American people. We need to cut spending and institute reforms so that we can keep cutting.”
He declined to say whether or not he was surprised by the heavy support for a debt-limit freeze within the Republican House majority.
WND’s Joseph Farah, who has organized the “No More Red Ink” campaign designed to lobby House Republicans against raising the debt limit, was pleasantly surprised by the results of the survey. Farah’s campaign has generated nearly 1 million red letters urging House Republicans to oppose any hike in the debt limit.
“The press has largely assumed Republican House members would go along with business as usual, but apparently no one has taken an actual head count,” said Farah.
“This survey strongly suggests there is a very real chance the House will say no to another debt limit increase – an action that would signal a fundamental restructuring of the way the federal government operates.”
The debt limit of $14.3 trillion is expected to be reached on or about April 15. Boehner has said he will postpone a vote until shortly before that date – approximately five weeks from now.
Since approval of both houses of Congress are required to raise the debt limit, this is one of the very few meaningful actions the Republican-controlled House can take without the consent of the Senate or the White House.
Farah has called it the Republicans’ “secret weapon.”
If a debt limit increase is not approved, all borrowing by the federal government would stop. It would mandate the biggest cuts in the federal budget in generations – to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars.
In addition to the building opposition from House Republicans, at least one Democrat in the House has signaled his objection to more borrowing – Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y.
“I am opposed to raising the debt ceiling,” said Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. “We have raised it 10 times in the past 10 years, and each time Congress has failed to get to the heart of the problem: out-of-control federal spending. Instead of being serious about stopping our government’s spending addiction, we continue to rack up massive annual deficits, like the $1.6 trillion deficit projected for this year.
“I’ve put a proposal for more than $400 billion in cuts on the table for discussion and I’ve challenged my colleagues to do the same. We have to cut spending and not raise the federal government’s debt ceiling again,” she said.
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