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NBC's Chuck Todd asks National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden, the fifth-ranking member of the House Republican leadership team, about the possibility of allowing a debt limit vote to proceed without a majority of House Republicans supporting it:
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?

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.

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.

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?

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?

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.

Originally posted to The Jed Report on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 09:12 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I've said this all along here... (12+ / 0-)

    Pres Obama is drawing his line in the sand on the debt ceiling because he'll get his clean raise and negotiate over the sequester cuts and CR to give spending cuts on entitlements as part of a grand bargain.  

    Pres Obama is making a big stand on the debt ceiling because he wants to send a message to the financial markets that the debt ceiling will be taken off the table as a hostage now and in the future.  

    I think both sides are going to end up getting what they want - Obama will get his clean raise, but will negotiate over sequester cuts and the CR where the GOP will get big concessions (but Obama will get more revenues).  Obama will be allowed to look firm and tough on the debt ceiling issue and the GOP House will be allowed to have stood firm on the CR.  

    "The world is made for people who aren't cursed with self awareness" -Annie Savoy (Bull Durham)

    by Jacoby Jonze on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 09:21:28 AM PST

  •  Maybe the DCCC is getting under their skin: (16+ / 0-)

    The DCCC, the official party organization tasked with electing Democrats to the House, will blast out this taunting list later today:

    Suggested House Republican Retreat Agenda Items

    Have breakfast paid for by lobbyists
    How to stop talking about “legitimate rape” and insulting women
    Science 101
    Creating tax breaks and tax shelters for millionaire campaign donors
    Math course on counting to 218 votes
    A primer on the stock market crash of 1929 and how you could be responsible for the next one.
    Coup d’etat prevention and planning
    Trust falls
    Big-picture thinking
    Practice interacting with women and minority voters
    How to increase our approval ratings: What root canals, traffic jams, cockroaches and head lice are doing right
    Remedial hurricane recovery
    Your inner Tea Party and you
    Have dinner paid for by lobbyists

  •  This is an interesting POV I hadn't considered.... (12+ / 0-)

    It could be the leadership doesn't want to have a debt fight because it knows it will lose but can't figure out a way to get the Tea Party to go along.

    If that's the case, the leadership is caught between a rock and a hard place.  Fight it out on the debt, knowing you will have to cave eventually, in the hopes of getting a majority of your Party to go along and vote the way you want in the end, or not have the fight but have to turn to a majority of Democrats to get your approval through.

    In the first case, there is real risk of major damage to the economy for which you get blamed with limited tangible results and the possiblity of failure to get the Party majority in the end.  In the second case, you have got to again make a humiliating admission that your Party is so damaged and fractured that even to save the country, you can't get majority suppport.

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

    Tax and Spend I can understand. I can even understand Borrow and Spend. But Borrow and give Billionaires tax cuts? That I have a problem with.

    by LiberalCanuck on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 09:30:59 AM PST

    •  If Republicans desire face-saving window dressing (0+ / 0-)

      Even if it doesn't actually do anything but can be spun as an accomplishment to their idiot constituents and will cave completely if they get it, should Democrats give it to them or should the president hold firmly to the "no negotiations" line and try to get Republicans to break the Hastert rule without any appeasement?

    •  Since they don't care re: 'saving the country' eas (0+ / 0-)

      y choice for Thugs.

      Remember: for Thugs its all about party all the time, bc that's about Power - their one true Gawd - except when its about the 'Movement' cause that's also about Power.

      There is no room for 'The Country' is thier world, as Sandy victims are finding out.

  •  The great divide in American politics is not (11+ / 0-)

    between a limited role for government versus an expanded role for government.

    It's between government has a beneficial role versus government is always harmful. And the majority of the House GOP believes that government is always harmful.

    Economics is a social *science*. Can we base future economic decisions on math?

    by blue aardvark on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 09:33:17 AM PST

  •  Purge them in 2014 (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP, SilentBrook, whaddaya, slothlax

    I'm still pondering the thought whether it might be useful to appeal to moderate conservatives to vote for the Democratic candidate in 2014 - "this time only, because your country needs you" - to send a clear and unambiguous signal to the GOP that this madness must stop.

    Maybe even motivate them to 'cheat' the pollsters and pretend to vote for the Republican and have a stealth surprise at the voting booth, that could circumvent gerrymandering and such.

    Crazy as it sounds - if this nonsense carries on through 2014 it might actually be worth a consideration.

    Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away. -- Philip K. Dick

    by RandomGuyFromGermany on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 09:54:14 AM PST

    •  I've had the same thought (0+ / 0-)

      Find disaffected conservatives in red districts, call them Red Dogs or whatever you want, who pledge to caucus with the Democrats.  While that could tip the House, it would be difficult to pass any sort of "liberal" agenda.  I don't know if the messaging would work, though.

      The other problem, if such a plan were successful, would be that nothing would stop those Red Dogs from switching their vote at any given time, so there would be a lot of potential "sleeper" Republicans.

      There is truth on all sides. The question is how much.

      by slothlax on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 01:08:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Actually my point was (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        to bring moderate Republican voters to vote for a Democrat so that the GOP establishment would get the message that their own voters are really fed up with all that loonie candidates that pass for 'Republican' now. You'd end up with a real Democratic majority.

        Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away. -- Philip K. Dick

        by RandomGuyFromGermany on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 02:15:06 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  walden, the businessman (10+ / 0-)

    I am a constituent of Greg Walden's, although I did not vote for him.  He regularly sends out email updates about how he, as a small business person, has the perspective on how government should operate.  Just recently, as the sponsor of the bill to outlaw minting the platinum coin, his email emphasized that a small business could not just print money, and it is irresponsible to use that method to get around the debt limit.  

    I wrote to him just yesterday urging him to live up to that standard by not standing with the Tea Partiers, and bringing the government to defaut. I reminded him that as a business owner he could not just decide not to pay his bills without dire consequences, and in this case the consequences are to the American public.

    Interestingly, my hard-core, Rush Limbaugh loving, conservative parents feel the same way and have been contacting him as well.  Maybe there is hope that some saner minds will prevail and the hostage will survive at least this crisis.

    •  Sounds interesting but... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RadGal70, basket

      Rep. Greg Walden should be defeated for re-election for the purpose of issuing talking points that aren't contributing to the dialog.  I know Walden seems to be a good representative and I'm sure he's a much better one than say Michelle Bachmann or Darrell Issa.

      However, we need to consider as many avenues as possible to get back the House from the GOP as possible.  We should have won the House back last November but at least we won a number of seats.

      Consider it like this:  Greg Walden is your Lincoln Chafee although it's clear that Chafee is liberal and Walden is conservative.  Chafee was defeated for re-election simply because Democrats in Rhode Island wanted the U.S. Senate to fall into Democratic territory.   Even though Chafee was a good U.S. Senator (from what I understand), current Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is even better, much better as a matter of fact.

      Anyway, it's up to you and other constituents if you want to push for the DCCC or others to challenge Greg Walden for re-election.  Oregon shouldn't be where a ton of resources should be invested in compared to states like Florida, California or Pennsylvania.

      However, Walden is a Republican and his seat can be a target by Democrats if they play their cards right.  I'm guessing your district is more conservative than other areas in Oregon.  If so, I still say shake things up a bit to turn it blue.

      •  But the chances of electing (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        a Democrat in eastern Oregon are slim and none and slim just left town.

      •  defeating Walden (0+ / 0-)

        As I said, I did not vote for him, and would like nothing better to have him defeated in the next election.  As someone who writes and calls to him routinely, and who regularly exclaims with disgust at the opinions expressed in our local newspaper, I think it's unlikely that it will happen unless Democrats control the legislature after the next census and pull the gerrymander trick out of the bag.  In the meantime, it does give me some hope that even a few hard core conservatives here in Central Oregon recognize that the debt ceiling should not be a bargaining chip and are willing to call him on it.  

  •  This is EXACTLY what Obama's been asking for (8+ / 0-)

    A discussion about the debt ceiling, and ending that pointless law.  Democrats need to stand behind him, and end it.

    "But the problem with any ideology is that it gives the answer before you look at the evidence." - President Clinton

    by anonevent on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 10:12:03 AM PST

  •  It is likely we will see Fiscal Cliff like numbers (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    on the debt ceiling. That is unless Pelosi pushes Boehner hard to get more Republicans. Sadly, even Ds don't like to vote aye on debt limit bills, including the President when he was in the Senate. The difference between Ds and Rs is that no matter what we always ensure there are enough votes to pass.

    Further, affiant sayeth not.

    by Gary Norton on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 12:06:45 PM PST

  •  Has Hastert himself weighed in on this? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Namely, whether it's ok to break his own rule to get this done? Being an Eminence Gros Gris within the party, it might help if he said go for it.

    "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

    by kovie on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 12:35:42 PM PST

    •  F and F (0+ / 0-)

      for Eminence Gros

      •  F&F? (0+ / 0-)

        Not familiar with that. And I just realized that I twice made from of his weight. Just once is a no-no hear but hey, it's Hastert we're talking about, the asshole who helped push through Medicare D w/o price controls, Bush's tax cuts and 2 stupid wars, and let Foley do his page boy thing, Tom DeLay's errand boy.

        Fat chance I'd pass up a chance to mock him.

        "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

        by kovie on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 03:34:17 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Hard to see how Boehner can use the Hastert rule (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    in this Congress for any significant legislation, when it didnt work for major legislation in the last, more Republican Congress.  

  •  Hahaha (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Can't we be responsible? Can't we work collaboratively on this?
    Those are some really good questions, Congressman, that I have been asking about you for the last few weeks.

    While the debt ceiling is the most ludicrous place to make a stand for the GOP, the CR and sequestration aren't going to be all that much better for them either, for the very reason all these "deadlines" keep coming up:

    The Republicans cannot win the debate on spending.  They never have.  They only win arguments on taxes.  The only reason the debt ceiling, the continuing resolution, and sequestration are agenda items this year is because the Republicans refused to make spending deals last year.  Now, from a weakened position, they continue to advocate for wildly unpopular ideas.  So the public will continue to see them as the problem.  But they will have to cut deals with Obama, so the "no compromise" base with just keep getting angrier.  Lose, lose.

    There is truth on all sides. The question is how much.

    by slothlax on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 12:47:50 PM PST

  •  What he say? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JML9999, wdrath

    I think JL is giving too much credit to Walden.  All is see is gibberish.  

  •  No, He's Just a Liar (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slothlax, ahumbleopinion, chrismorgan

    He won't answer the question because there's no good answer for him to say. The truth is that a majority of House Republicans want to default on the debt if they don't get what they want: cuts that start to eliminate Social Security, Medicare, anything that protects people from Conservative corporate masters.

    And they're not going to get that - at least not enough to either satisfy their corporate masters, or to say they got it to the Teabaggers who now own the Conservative brand (bought by the Conservativest, corporatest, masterest of them all: the Kochs and fellow Birchers who are the only thing left resembing "values" among the evil conglomerate that their party has become).

    Walden's not going to say any of that to an unfiltered audience. His job is to coordinate the lies between now and election day 2014, to keep his minority as large as possible. And maybe even hold majorities, if the lies go just right. And if nobody makes him answer the question.

    BTW: a tiny group of people wags the minority of corporate interests that dictates to the minority of members of the minority party in the minority of elected chambers. Which has the power to monkeywrench the entire US government, in the middle of a recession so monkeywrenches the entire US economy, and so the entire global economy.

    That's how an oligarchy controls a world. Business as usual.

    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

    by DocGonzo on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 12:49:40 PM PST

  •  Obama has already beat them (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slothlax, SoCalSal

    on this one. They're just looking for a quiet way to move onto more favorable ground for them.

    "Do what you can with what you have where you are." - Teddy Roosevelt

    by Andrew C White on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 12:50:11 PM PST

  •  DO NOT let these assholes off the hook. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Make them reveal what they really want to do.

    Watch as their consitituencies of crotchety old white people go batshit ballistic when it's revealed they want to gut SS and MC.

    Let them cut their own throats.

  •  Chuck Todd is a moron. You can hear him (0+ / 0-)

    grunting and agreeing with this dork about Obama's "attitude" during the President's press conference near the beginning of the clip.

  •  "A simple up or down vote..." (0+ / 0-)

    it seems to me that Democrats should be demanding a simple, up-or-down vote on the debt ceiling, especially in light of this comment by Walden.

    It's a phrase that the President and his Democratic colleagues should be able to effectively use to browbeat Republicans into...allowing a simple up-or-down vote.

  •  Amidst all the Beltway triple-speak, the GOP ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ... probably will give on the debt ceiling and move to more fertile ground - the sequester and the normal budget process going forward.

    As President Obama has been saying.

    The Tea Party crazies even lost some of their backers on using the debt ceiling as leverage. Still, the majority of the majority might not want it, but enough Republicans will be available to help Nancy Pelosi get this passed. Or not, if the conservaDems rise up (or would that be, sink low?).

    Bring on the popcorn truck.

    2014 IS COMING. Build up the Senate. Win back the House : 17 seats. Plus!

    by TRPChicago on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 01:27:33 PM PST

  •  PR dodge and no idea how to handle T-jihaidists is (0+ / 0-)

    all this is.

    Maybe it becomes something more, maybe not.  But its meaningless atm, especially as its a non-answer by a not really important leadership member.  Histotry shows that whatever Boehner wants to do is pretty much DOA with the jihadists, and at best he will let them vent and whine until he hads no choice.

    The problem here is that has usually been after the dealine, which here means post-default.

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