Barack Obama says voters gave him a mandate, with his narrow re-election, to raise taxes and collect more money for the government.
But Republicans, especially those who overwhelmingly were returned to power in the U.S. House, say they also have a mandate: to halt the rampant spending that Obama is using as an argument that the government needs more money.
Now with the looming "fiscal cliff" of automatic Obama tax hikes and spending cuts pending without a budget agreement, the nation's debt limit, raised to $16 trillion-plus last year after a bloody Washington fight, could make the "fiscal cliff" seem like a bump in the road.
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Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., already has released a statement that Obama will find unwelcome.
"Mr. President, I will not support increasing the debt limit until we address why we're in debt," Graham said. "I will never vote to raise the debt ceiling unless we produce real structural reforms to save Medicare and Social Security from bankruptcy and prevent our country from becoming Greece. It is now time for you to demonstrate leadership and embrace big ideas in a bipartisan way. America is on an unsustainable path. To continue borrowing money without addressing our entitlement problems is irresponsible."
Obama's idea? Virtually unlimited power to raise the debt ceiling by himself.
In a coordinated attack on the constitutional provision by idealogues, a campaign has been launched to simply remove the "outdated artifact."
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That was the description from Mark Zandi of Moody's Analytics, quoted by Peter Schroeder in The Hill.
"It's anachronistic and it's a problem," he said.
Obama explained that he wouldn't play games over the issue, and Congress needed to do what he wanted before the end of the year.
But the Associated Press noted Republicans have real negotiating power on the issue.
"The debt ceiling gives Republicans a powerful weapon to extract further deficit reduction," the report said.
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Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner backed up Obama's hard line, saying, "We are not prepared to have the American economy held hostage to periodic threats that Republicans will force the country to default on our obligations."
Not so fast, said GOP members in the House.
According to a Reuters report, they are working on a non-binding resolution that could put the chamber on record opposing any strategy that would let Obama pick and choose a time and amount to raise the nation's credit limit.
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That the president could "raise the debt limit infinitely at any time he wants is the definition of insanity," said Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz.
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman also is working on the statement.
The Republican perspective was striking a chord with some activists across the nation. At Americans for Limited Government, President Bill Wilson praised Graham.
"All Americans should thank Sen. Graham for taking such a strong stand. Americans for Limited Government urges his Republican colleagues in the House and Senate to follow his lead," Wilson said.
He said without an increase in the current limit of about $16.4 trillion, which the government is expected to reach within a few weeks, "Obama's second term will be on hold."
While the revenues to the U.S. government are adequate to pay for things like the military and Social Security, they are not enough for the grab-bag of spending projects the Obama administration has used, including a proposal for a new $50 billion "stimulus."
Graham has been harsh in his comments about the Democrat proposal.
"Suggesting that we never have a say about raising the debt limit again, that it be raised in perpetuity, when it's a constitutional requirement that Congress only can borrow money, shows to me that he's trying to create a situation for unlimited power rather than bipartisanship," Graham said.
Wilson said Graham was right.
"The debt ceiling is the one check on the government's power to borrow unlimited amounts of money. It is time Congress use that check against Obama before it is too late," he said.
"Left unchecked, the debt will consume us. This is the hill for Republicans stand and fight on. It's now or never to rein in unchecked government borrowing, before the debt is so large it cannot be refinanced, let alone repaid and drowns out any chance at real growth and prosperity," Wilson said.
Just days ago, more than 100 conservative leaders from across the nation sent a letter to GOP members in Congress encouraging them to "negotiate from a position of strength" with Democrats regarding the trillions of dollars in tax increases Barack Obama is demanding.
"It's in the interest of the country and in your personal interest for you to use the power you unquestionably have now to stand firm and not surrender your conservative principles, no matter how loud the clamor of people whose central interests is to advance the left's agenda," says the letter.
The letter was signed by Morton Blackwell, chairman of the Weyrich Lunch, Colin Hann of Let Freedom Ring, Ed Meese of the Conservative Action Project, Jim Martin of the 60 Plus Association and Phyllis Schlafly of Eagle Forum, among others.
The separate "No More Red Ink" campaign explains what authority the GOP currently holds as the majority party of the U.S. House, where all national spending bills must originate.
The GOP can decline to authorize an increase in the national debt limit and force billions of dollars in spending cuts, because programs would not legally have money available to run.
Joseph Farah, CEO of WND and originator of the campaign, noted that House Republicans can take such action unilaterally. They wouldn't need a single Democrat vote, he said.
"It will take only 218 House Republican votes to stop the borrowing next year. And I'm pretty certain Republicans will maintain control of the House and possibly gain control of the Senate next year. That's why I'm optimistic about the success of this powerful, nation-changing plan," he wrote.
"Just think what it will mean if, following this campaign of relentless, grass-roots lobbying, Republicans actually live up to their rhetoric about the Constitution and limited government and balanced budgets next year. We can have a balanced budget overnight!"
He also said "unconstitutional and destructive bureaucracies" could be eliminated, such as the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency, Planned Parenthood funding and obscene artwork sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts.
The letter from conservative leaders isn't as specific but addresses GOP members of both the House and Senate, warning that they will be tested.
"In the House, the nation elected in 2012 one of the largest Republican majorities in the past 100 years. You have a mandate to fight for conservative principles that is arguably much broader than the one that narrowly reelected President Barack Obama claims to have for his leftist agenda," the letter continues.
"Of course, House Republicans alone cannot pass a law, but united you can stop any bill which violates the principles you publicly committed to support. In the Senate you have more than enough Republicans to prevent the passage of anything truly harmful to our country."
While there is building pressure for the GOP to give in to the White House, the letter warns of the results.
"They want to increase federal power, federal spending, federal taxes, federal deficits, and federal debt. They want to give more advantages to their liberal allies and put more federal money into the pockets of their political cronies. They want to undermine further traditional values and to surrender more of our national sovereignty to international bodies. They want to weaken our country militarily and move America more rapidly in the direction of European socialism."
The signers: (affiliations for identification only)
• Morton Blackwell, chairman, The Weyrich Lunch
• Colin Hanna, president, Let Freedom Ring
• Ed Meese, Conservative Action Project
• Jim Martin, chairman, 60 Plus Association
• Phyllis Schlafly, president, Eagle Forum
• Erick Erickson, editor, RedState
• T. Kenneth Cribb Jr., National Conservative Campaign Fund
• Brent Bozell, president, ForAmerica
• Tom McClusky, senior vice president, Family Research Council Action
• Hon. James S. Gilmore III, president, Free Congress Action
• Gary Bauer, president, American Values
• Michael Farris, chairman, Home School Legal Defense Association
• Preston Noell III, president, Tradition, Family, Property Inc.
• Penny Nance, CEO and president, Concerned Women for America
• Shari Rendall, director of legislation & public policy, Concerned Women for America
• Richard Viguerie, chairman, ConservativeHQ.com
• Al Cardenas, chairman, American Conservative Union
• Ken Blackwell, chairman, Ohio Faith and Freedom Coalition
• Foster Friess
• Tim LeFever, chairman of the board, Capitol Resource Institute
• David N. Bossie, president, Citizens United
• Frank Cannon, president, American Principles Project
• Susan Carleson, president, American Civil Rights Union President, Carleson Center for Public Policy
• Lori Roman, Regular Folks United/Rosies Project
• Amy Ridenour, president, National Center for Public Policy Research.
• Mark Fitzgibbons, American Targeting Advertising
• Seton Motley, president, Less Government
• Ginni Thomas, Liberty Consulting
• Phil Kerpen, president, American Commitment
• Cindy Chafian, president, The Mommy Lobby
• Bob Reccord, executive director, Council for National Policy
• Jim Backlin, Christian Coalition of America
• Amb. Hank Cooper, former SDI director
• Rick Scarborough, president, Vision America
• Reverend Lou Sheldon, founder and chairman, Traditional Values Coalition
• Andrea Lafferty, president, Traditional Values Coalition
• Nina May, chairman, Renaissance Women, Renaissance Foundation
• Joseph Farah, editor and chief executive officer, WND.com and WND Books
• Jim Garlow, chairman, Renewing American Leadership Action
• Mathew Staver, chairman, Liberty Counsel
• Deryl Edwards, president, Liberty Counsel Action
• Mandi Campbell, legal director, Liberty Center for law and policy
• Rod D. Martin, chairman, The Vanguard Project
• Kay R. Daly, president, Coalition for a Fair Judiciary
• Tim Echols, chairman, Georgia Public Service Commission
• Elaine Donnelly, president, Center for Military Readiness
• Michael Centanni, chairman, Freedom’s Defense Fund
• Ted Baehr, Movieguide
• Kristan Hawkins, president, Students for Life of America
• Larry Cirignano, Faithful Catholic Citizens
• Stu Epperson, Salem Communications Corporation
• Floyd Brown, president, Western Center for Journalism
• Cullen Davis, Ken W. Davis Foundation
• Ken Timmerman, 2012 Republican Candidate for Congress (MD-08)
• Richard W. C. Falknor, chairman, Maryland Center-Right Coalition
• John Kwapisz, Washington liaison, American Council for Immigration Reform
• Wes Vernon, RenewAmerica.com
• Somers H. White, president, Somers White Co., Inc.
• Roy Stringfellow M.D., Advanced Gynecology, LLC
• Cathie Adams, president, Texas Eagle Forum
• Tammy Kobza , Iowa state director, Iowa Eagle Forum
• Jim Treat, Chairman, BV Tea Party Patriots
• Becky Gerritson, president,Wetumpka TEA Party of Alabama
• Robert K. Fischer, president, Fischer Furniture, Inc.
• Tina J. Benkiser, attorney & counselor at law, former Republican Party of Texas chairman
• Kirk Elliott, Ph.D., TodaysAmerica.com
• Dee Park, chair, Moore TEA Citizens (NC)
• Suzanne (Zan) Green, founder, Rainy Day Patriots
• J. Keet Lewis, Texans for Conservative Principles PAC
• Joshua Charles, Rediscovery Project, William Jessup University
• David Y. Denholm, president, Public Service Research Council
• Harold Sorensen Americans Must Investigate Public Servants
• Lisa Becker, president, Liber8Congress
• Jodi McDade, member, Alabama Republican Party Executive Committee
• Lee A. Beaman, entrepreneur, Nashville, Tenn.
• Joseph Schwartz, North Woods Patriots (Wis.)
• Kim Simac, president, North Woods Patriots (Wis.)
• Kirsten Lombard, organizer, The Wisconsin 9/12 Project
• Seth Morgan, former state representative (OH), Board Member of Citizens for Community Values
• Sidney E. Johnson, M.D. Member Wood County Republican Party Member Central Wisconsin Tea Party
• Ron Hei, Common Sense Tea Party Patriots of Covington County, Ala.
• David Cook, DCC Inc.
• Tricia Erickson, Angel Pictures & Publicity
• Dale Beach, Montgomery Tea Party Patriots (Ala.)
• Sharon Glass, president, Santa Rosa TEA Party President
• Sidney E. Johnson, M.D., member, Wood County Republican Party Member, Central Wisconsin Tea Party
• Becky Hall, president Northern Liberty Alliance(Northern Minnesota/Wisconsin)
• Donna Hearne
• Peggy Dau
• Peter Weyrich (Va.)
• Jeffrey l. Kirschmann
• Janice Shaw Crouse, Ph.D, Beverly LaHaye Institute
• Jeff Gayner, chairman, Americans for Sovereignty
• Ron Pearson, Council for America
• Dr. Day Gardner, president, National Black Pro-Life Union
• Kevin L. Kearns, U.S. Business and Industry Council
• Rich Bott, president, Bott Radio Network
• Dick Bott, chairman, Bott Radio Network
• Gary Aldrich, president, Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty; chairman of the board, Council National Policy
• Gary A. Marx, executive director, Faith & Freedom Coalition
• Tim Macy, vice chairman, Gun Owners of America
• Bradley Mattes, executive director, Life Issues Institute
• Dianne Edmondson, executive director, Republican National Coalition for Life
• Keith Mason, president, Personhood USA (Colo.)
• Richard Ford, Heritage Alliance
• Jason Jones, president, Movie to Movement
• Melissa Ortiz, Ms. Wheelchair NY 2005 Founder & Principal Able Americans
• Jim Simpson, freelance investigative journalist
• Terri L. Burl, Forest County Republican Party Media
• Liz Reiten, chair of the Florence County Republican Party
• Chris Martinson, secretary, Wolf River Area Patriots (Wis.)
• Penna Dexter, co-host, "Point of View" radio show
• Todd Dexter, president, Todd Dexter & Associates
• Donald Gaines, founder and local coordinator, Covington County Tea Party Patriots (Ala.)
• Mike Diggs, Tea Party Patriots of North Alabama
• Seth Cowan, president, Wolf River Area Patriots (Wis.)
• Karen Schroeder, president, Advocates for Academic Freedom
• Troy Newman, president, Pro-Life Nation
• Penna Dexter, radio host
• Bob Ellis, American Clarion (S.D.)
• Judson Phillips, founder, Tea Party Nation
• Kelly G. Berry, president, The Madison Institute Association
• Mark D. West, president, Chattanooga Tea Party
• Dave Kramer, Dubuque County Tea party (Iowa)
• Jerry A. Johnson, president, Criswell College
• Bobbie Patray, president, Tennessee Eagle Forum
• Daniel J. Stafford, representative, Walton County Patriots, Florida
• Ken Settle (Wis.), Northwoods Patriots of Eagle River
• Dr. Terry B. Batton, founder and president, Barbour County, Alabama Tax Enough Already Party
• Kirk Hays, North American Jet
• Tearlach F. Sinclair, Menominee County ACE American for Constitutional Enforcement
• Jeffery Horn Prairie Patriots (Wis.)
• Dan Curan
• Jim Coursolle (Wis.)
• Ellen Grigsby
• Dr. William Greene, president, RightMarch.com
• Dr. Shelli Jones Manuel, CEO, Harvest Projects International Inc.; CEO, Resurrect America Show
• Bud LaCoy, Americans for Constitutional Enforcement, Marinette County