Tea Party-Backed Congressman-Elect Tim Scott Concerned About John Boehner's First 'Adult' Moment

12/21/2010 05:50 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Nick Wing Senior Viral Editor, The Huffington Post

Incoming GOP Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) recently warned John Boehner that a move to raise the nation's quickly approaching debt ceiling without first attempting drastic spending cuts could quickly repulse the Tea Party base.

Scott, a Tea Party-backed candidate who was selected as one of two freshman Republicans on the House leadership team, told the Daily Caller in an interview that no actions should be taken to extend the debt limit until all other options were exhausted.

"I think until proven otherwise we're looking for $300 billion in cuts if that's possible," Scott told the Daily Caller. "Right now all the talk about the issue seems to be that it's a foregone conclusion that you cannot do that. I'd like to let the proof be in the pudding."

In a recent profile of John Boehner in The New Yorker, the future Speaker of the House raised some eyebrows when he described the impending decision to address the debt ceiling as likely the GOP's first "adult moment" of his tenure, and one that he said he would need to "help people understand the serious problem that would exist if we didn't do it."

But Scott told the Daily Caller that the optics of accepting an increase in the debt limit -- as Boehner appears prepared to do -- would send the message that the newly empowered GOP was "not paying attention" to the conservative promise of addressing what the Tea Party has seen as an over-spending Washington.

"If we have spending cuts," he asked, "is there a way to avoid increasing the debt ceiling? That's the question. And I think if we don't research the answer to that question, and look for whether the cuts are possible, I don't know that you're saying to the American people that you're taking seriously the message that we must spend less."

The Wall Street Journal reported in November on the potential consequences -- beyond a costly shutdown of the government -- of failing to raise the ceiling:

If an increase in the current debt limit of $14.3 trillion does not pass, it would suggest the country may not meet its obligations and would shake the financial system. It could rock the bond market, rattle the dollar and scare away foreign buyers of U.S. debt.

While voting to increase the cap is seen as a necessity by many, apparently including Boehner himself, this issue is the latest, and perhaps most pressing, manifestation of a growing rift in the GOP between incoming legislators who feel beholden to their fiscally conservative constituents and lawmakers who may be bound by things that many consider unavoidable political realities.

Congressmen-elect Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) and Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) have all said that they would vote not to raise the debt ceiling, despite the potential risks of doing so.

But it's not just freshman lawmakers who are rallying to the piercing cries for increased fiscal austerity.

Seasoned Republican representatives such as Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas) have all signaled their intention to vote against the measure when the time comes.

And GOP Senators Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and David Vitter of Louisiana have both suggested that they would oppose the raising of the debt limit in the first quarter of next year.