Conservative Groups Silent on Clean Debt-Limit Vote

by Andrew Stiles

Conservative groups that have agressively opposed the passage of a “clean” debt-limit increase in previous budget negotiations are giving a pass to House GOP leadership’s plan to pass a clean, six-week debt-limit extension in order to buy time for talks on a larger budget deal and shift the focus of the debate back onto Obamacare.

“We do not support clean debt ceiling increases, but because Heritage Action is committed to giving House Leadership the flexibility they need to refocus the debate on Obamacare we will not key vote against the reported proposal,” Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham said in a statement Thursday. The conservative Club for Growth has also declined to “key vote” the measure, meaning that supporting the clean increase will not impact a lawmaker’s score card.

In 2011, Needham said a clean debt-limit increase was “an absolute non-starter,” and the lack of formal opposition from conservatives groups, as well as Boehner’s decision to bring a clean debt-limit increase to the floor, appears to mark a shift in GOP policy that has some aides perplexed. After all, the so-called “Boehner Rule” holds that any increase in the debt limit must be accompanied by spending cuts of equal or greater value.

However, as Jonathan noted, the conservative wing appears to have played a significant role in formulating the strategy, which is designed to decouple the debates over the debt limit and the continuing resolution, and ultimately reignite the fight against Obamacare.

Some conservative aides concede privately that although their bosses are likely to vote against a clean debt-limit increase on policy grounds, they’ll support it from a strategic perspective so as not to “undermine progress” in the debate over the continuing resolution, which many conservative believe they are winning.

Meanwhile, some Republicans on the Senate side are wary of doing a debt-limit increase without also passing a short-term resolution to re-open the government. And Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said following a meeting at the White House today that budget negotiations are “not going to happen” until the government shutdown ends. 

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