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More Republicans Vow Showdown on Debt Limit

I don’t think calling a debate over the debt limit “insanity” will call off the Republicans from engaging on that debate. They know perfectly well that they have a couple opportunities to force spending cuts, and they’re already preparing the ground by making outlandish claims about $200 billion in government waste (waste is the last refuge of a scoundrel politician with no ideas about priorities in budgeting). The debt limit is a particularly attractive one because of the harm a failure to increase it would create. If we want to belabor the hostage metaphors, the debt limit is a fully loaded jumbo 747. That’s why Jim DeMint finds it so appealing.

“I think we should resist that. We need to have a showdown, at this point, that we’re not going to increase our debt ceiling anymore. We are going to cut things necessary to stay within the current levels, which is over $14 trillion,” DeMint told the conservative magazine Human Events in an interview released Monday. “So this needs to be a big showdown.”

Republicans have pointed to that impending vote as a major flashpoint in the debate over spending and deficits this year. The new GOP House that will be sworn in on Wednesday is eager to make spending cuts, and budget hawks hope to use the vote on the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip to extract agreements from the White House to cut spending.

Much like the Green Lantern theory of foreign policy, DeMint believes in the Green Lantern theory of budgeting – if you increase the will of the Congress to balance the budget, they’ll just do it. Republicans run on “will” and “discipline,” not “numbers” and “reality.”

DeMint’s not alone in this. While everyone keeps pointing to John Boehner’s comments about “federal government obligations,” I don’t think he even has majority support in his caucus for that line of thinking. They want spending caps and hundreds of billions in cutbacks and even Social Security cuts. That’s the opening offer and in recent history Republicans don’t really budge from that. Regardless of how many times they are called “irresponsible.”

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David Dayen

David Dayen