A growing army of Republicans wants to push the debt showdown past the August 2 deadline.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) are leading the charge in their respective chambers. They both tell National Review Online that if Republicans hold firm, President Obama and Senate Democrats will buckle and pass a balanced-budget amendment.
Jordan, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, which authored “Cut, Cap, and Balance,” a fiscal-reform package that passed the House earlier this week, says that his group is ready to dig in. He acknowledges that two other plans — the one proposed by Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), and the one proposed by the bipartisan “Gang of Six” — are gaining steam. Yet as the clock ticks, he is unwilling to deal — or accept doomsday warnings.
“What is irrational about saying that we need to cut spending? What is irrational about saying we need to limit the size of government?” Jordan asks. “There is nothing irrational about that. We have to make the case. You make the case by going to the American people, you let that build, and then you can get Democratic support for something.”
Jordan notes that 59 Republicans voted against the spending deal brokered by Speaker John Boehner and President Obama in April. If a debt-limit solution without a balanced-budget amendment is proffered, that same bloc, he says, will rally in opposition. “Potentially, I think there could be that many or a lot more,” he says. “We are trying to build a big number.”
Rep. Joe Walsh (R., Ill.), one of 20 freshmen to vote against the spring spending compromise, tells NRO that disappointment over that deal weighs heavily on those who opposed it and on many who were reluctant supporters. “It left a sour taste in our mouth,” he says. “We believe that we really let the American people down.” For conservatives, he says, passing “Cut, Cap, and Balance” was an attempt to win back the public’s trust.
Walsh has gathered more than 90 signatures on a letter to House GOP leadership urging them not to bring the McConnell plan to a vote, which seems to be having an impact. Walsh tells NRO that Republican and Democratic Senate staffers have been calling his office to gauge the level of opposition to the plan, which appears to be the Senate’s preferred option. “The rank and file, through the letter, is making that clear that it is not going anywhere in the House,” he says.
Meanwhile, House Republicans are urging Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) to take up “Cut, Cap, and Balance,” or as they’ve taken to calling it, the “Gang of 234” proposal, after the number of votes the plan received in the lower chamber.
In the Senate, DeMint is also counting noses, hoping to stir an eleventh-hour movement. Conservative voters, he says, will lose faith in the party if it backs the “Gang” plan and does not fight for a balanced-budget amendment. “Frankly, I believe if we had 41 Republicans who were willing to go past August 2, these things would happen in a hurry,” he says. “I don’t know that we do, but that is the kind of approach we need, and the approach we should have had all along.”
DeMint, who is working closely with Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah), sees hope for a last-minute standoff, even as many of his GOP colleagues flock to the “Gang,” which is led by Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.), a respected fiscal hawk. So far, he can count two established Senate dealmakers, Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) and Orrin Hatch (R., Utah), as allies.
Graham, for instance, attended a closed-door confab with DeMint and conservative activists on Tuesday, urging the various groups to push Republicans to hold. He told the audience that if Republicans did not battle for a balanced-budget amendment in the summer heat, the chances for its passage would quickly wilt. Waiting until August 3, he argued, would give the GOP sufficient leverage. Hatch, for his part, tells NRO that he sees “real problems” with the “Gang” framework and calls “Cut, Cap, and Balance” his preferred path ahead.