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With Polls Favoring Dems, GOP Launches New Debt Ceiling Strategy

Republican leaders will deliver a new strategy this week in the budding battle with Democrats over who gets the blame if the U.S. government has to default on its $16.4 trillion deficit limit.

House Republicans will vote Wednesday on a measure that will allow the government to continue borrowing money until May 18. However, anything longer than that will require the Senate, controlled by Democrats, to pass a budget, something it has not been able to do in more than three years.

Oh, and whatever budget the Senate passes needs to include plenty of spending cuts, Republican House Speaker John Boehner warned.

“We are going to pursue strategies that will obligate the Senate to finally join the House in confronting the government’s spending problem,” Boehner said in a statement.

Polls Favor Democrats

The new strategy might help the Republicans combat shrinking support from the public. Recent polls show the American public siding with President Obama and the Democrats, just as they did during the fiscal cliff crisis.

A CBS News/New York Times poll last week, for example, showed that 77 percent of Americans want the debt ceiling raised, though most of them (60 percent), wanted it done in tandem with spending cuts. Only 18 percent of those polled thought the debt ceiling should not be raised at all, which would mean the government would go into default sometime between the middle of February and first of March.

Both sides are lining up against the possibility of a default, which they agree would have a crippling effect on the fragile U.S. economy.

The Republicans are using the temporary extension proposal as their response to President Obama’s declaration last week at a press conference that the debt ceiling has to go up so that he has enough money to pay for the bills Congress passed.

“Republicans in Congress have two choices here,” Obama told reporters. “They can act responsibly and pay America’s bills or they can act irresponsibly and put America through another economic crisis.”

The trading of barbs is a continuation of the game of cat and mouse Democrats, specifically Obama, and Republicans, primarily Boehner, played throughout the fiscal cliff crisis. That showdown ended on New Year’s Day, and the battle lines are so similar – spending cuts vs. spending habits – that some already have labeled this battle “Fiscal Cliff 2.0.”

No Permanent Solutions

As was the case with the fiscal cliff, neither side has offered a permanent solution to the problem of how to deal with America’s growing debt. Obama is promoting a balance of spending cuts and new taxes, but has been shy about specifics on what programs he would cut.  He is very much in favor of spending as much money as the debt ceiling limit will allow.

Republicans prefer to keep the tax structure as is and wield a sharp axe at entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. They are not including the biggest spender in the budget – the Defense Department – on their list of budgets that need slashing.

Beyond that, the president and Congress must decide how to deal with huge cuts in Defense and domestic programs that are scheduled to take place March 1. That too is a leftover from the fiscal cliff debate that merely postponed the $110 billion in mandatory cuts that were supposed to happen Jan. 1.

For now, both sides seem content to use temporary solutions for the ongoing problems.

“We think it’s only right that both (chambers) lay out their roadmap to put on a path to a balanced budget,” Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters after the party’s three-day retreat in Williamsburg, Va., last week.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement: “We are encouraged that there are signs that congressional Republicans may back off their insistence on holding our economy hostage to extract drastic cuts in Medicare, education and programs middle-class families depend on. Congress must pay its bills and pass a clean debt limit increase without further delay.”

Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it in 2012, helping birth into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering the high finance world of college and professional sports for major publications, including the Associated Press, New York Times and Sports Illustrated. His interest in sports has waned some, but he is as passionate as ever about not reaching for his wallet. Bill can be reached at [email protected].

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