TODD: If there's not a majority in the House Republican Conference to raise the debt limit, but there is a majority in the House of Representatives to raise a clean debt limit, would the leadership be willing to do that?The interesting thing here is that Walden doesn't answer the question. As you recall, the tax deal only passed because GOP leadership allowed it to come up for a vote despite opposition from a majority of House Republicans, meaning they had to rely on Democratic votes for final passage.
WALDEN: You know, let's look at how do we avoid default on America and America's debt? How do we avoid these issues that are going to bankrupt the country long-term? The fighting over what the internal rule is or isn't in the Republican Conference really isn't the issue here.
It's impossible to say whether Walden was dodging the question to avoid sounding overly partisan or because he wants to preserve all available options. Whichever the case, at a minimum, it shows Republican leadership doesn't want to defend a hardline position—but it may even show that they are contemplating another debt ceiling vote that relies primarily on Democrats for passage. And based on Walden's answer to Todd's follow up question, my hunch is that it's the latter:
TODD: I have to say, it does sound like you're leaving an opening that maybe debt limit, maybe you have these tougher negotiations and conversations over funding the government, and maybe debt limit is a separate issue. Is that, am I reading between the lines correctly?Once again, Walden avoided giving a conclusive answer to Todd's question, but he came about as close as he could to outlining a scenario under which Republicans approach the debt ceiling as just one step of a larger process. And given that it's the first step, the overwhelming implication of his answer is that he doesn't want any part of the debt limit fight and neither does the GOP leadership. They'd much prefer to focus on the sequester and the annual appropriations bills. They will no doubt continue to focus their rhetorical fire on the president, but Walden's answer suggests that House Republican leadership believes their real challenge has nothing to do with convincing the president to negotiate over the debt limit. Instead, it's how to convince their own house to give up on holding the debt limit hostage—or, failing that, how to sidestep their house completely without losing their jobs in leadership.
WALDEN: Chuck, I think what I'm saying is that we've got sequestration coming up. We've got the continuing resolution coming up. We're going to have in this same period of time a debate over a budget that we hope to pass by the middle of March, early April. We'll meat our deadlines, and you've got the debt ceiling issue. All of those are in the mix right now, because they're all coming to a head at the same time. We're going to need to deal with all of them. Can't we be responsible? Can't we work collaboratively on this?