Debate over raising the debt ceiling is proving to be a hot topic for discussion among the pack of Republican candidates vying for their party's nomination to run against President Barack Obama in the next election cycle.
Some GOP contenders have sought to capitalize on the fiscal issue to establish credibility with conservative voters. It should be noted, however, that most of the better known White House hopefuls will not have to cast a vote on whether or not to raise the deficit limit.
HuffPost's Jon Ward reported earlier this year:
Conservative strategists are warning that the GOP should not push the debt ceiling debate too close to the breaking point.
“If there is a vote on raising the debt ceiling and it fails, there will be a significant market reaction,” said Tony Fratto, a former Treasury and White House official in the Bush administration. “Investors already believe that Congress doesn’t understand the financial markets. A failure to raise the debt ceiling will confirm this to them."
If the markets get spooked, U.S. treasury bond yields will spike, driving up interest rates and increasing the price of borrowing money for everyone from the federal government to municipalities to consumers, Fratto warned. The cascading effects on the economy would be severe and long-lasting.
Nevertheless, some of the Republicans running for president are standing firm in their opposition to raising the debt ceiling.
Below, a slideshow highlighting the positions defined by GOP presidential candidates on the fiscal issue:
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has repeatedly dodged direct questions as to whether he supports raising the debt ceiling, including during the GOP primary debate held in New Hampshire last week. Asked at the Granite State forum if he believes the deficit limit will ultimately be raised, via CNN, the presidential candidate responded: I believe we will not raise the debt ceiling unless the president finally, finally is willing to be a leader on issues that the American people care about. And the number one issue that relates to that debt ceiling is whether the government is going to keep on spending money they don't have. And the American people and Congress and every person elected in Washington has to understand we want to see a president finally lay out plans for reining in the excesses of government. You've heard on here a whole series of ideas about entitlements. And that's about 60 percent of federal spends. That's a big piece. That's a big chunk. Ideas from all these people up here. Romney has praised the tough stance taken by House Republicans on lifting the debt ceiling and the larger issue of government spending. "We've got our colleagues in the House that are doing a heroic job. They're using every source of their strength to fight the excessive spending of this administration, and I applaud them on that," Romney said earlier this month, according to the Los Angeles Times, "They say they're not going to raise the debt limit unless they see a commensurate reduction in spending and plans to hold down our spending in the future. Congratulations to them on keeping the battle going on."
Though former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty has spoken out against efforts to raise the debt ceiling, he has acknowledged that at some point it's likely the limit will have to be increased. HuffPost's Jon Ward reported last month: Tim Pawlenty opened up a new line of criticism against Republicans in Congress for their approach to the debt limit negotiations, though he acknowledged the reality that the ceiling will likely have to be raised at some point in the near future. Speaking with reporters over breakfast the morning after the first debate of the GOP presidential primary race, the former Minnesota governor signaled that he will speak out against the compromise taking shape between the Republican majority in the House and the Democratic-controlled Senate and White House. Back in January, HuffPost's Sam Stein reported: ...[Pawlenty] suggested that lawmakers pass additional legislation to prevent the government from defaulting -- the exact purpose of raising the debt ceiling in the first place. "They should not raise the debt ceiling," said the former governor at the time. "I believe they should pass legislation that would allow them to sequence the spending as revenues come in to make sure they don't default. And then have a debate about what other spending could be reduced."
A staunch opponent of raising the debt ceiling, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has made her position on the issue clear. CNN relays what Bachmann had to say in defining her position on the matter during the first GOP presidential primary debate in New Hampshire last week: I've already voted no on raising the debt ceiling in the past. And unless there are serious cuts, I can't. But I want -- I want to speak to someone that's far more eloquent than I. Someone who said just dealing with the issue of raising the debt ceiling is a failure of leadership. That person was then Senator Barack Obama. He refused to raise the debt ceiling because he said President Bush had failed in leadership. Clearly, President Obama has failed in leadership. Under his watch, in two and a half years, we've increased the federal debt 35 percent just in that amount of time. So, what we need to do both, from the Congress and president, he needs to direct his treasury secretary: pay the interest on the debt first, then we won't have a failure of our full faith and credit from their prioritized spending. We have to have serious spending cuts. Bachmann has repeatedly criticized Democratic lawmakers and the Obama administration over their calls to increase the debt limit to avoid default. The Tea Party favorite has gone as far as to accuse Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner of "outright blatant lies" and "scare tactics" for sounding alarm over the issue.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he "would not agree to just an automatic blank check debt ceiling" during an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" last month. The presidential candidate signaled opposition to including tax increases as part of any budget deal, saying, "I believe this is a country which has over spent. It's not under taxed." He also cautioned, however, to "Avoid default if you possibly can." The AP reported last month: ...Gingrich on Friday raised the ante on the fight between Boeing Co. and the National Labor Relations Board, an emerging issue in this key early-primary state. Making his first visit to South Carolina as a declared Republican presidential candidate, Gingrich said that Congress should cut funding for the NLRB and tie that move to congressional talks over increasing the nation's debt limit. The NLRB says Boeing built a non-union assembly plant in South Carolina in retaliation for a 2008 union strike in Washington state, where most of that work is now done by union workers. "I think it's something they should consider seriously putting on the debt ceiling," said the former House Speaker.
Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson reacted favorably to House Republicans voting against a clean measure to lift the debt ceiling last month. "House defeats debt ceiling increase. Good move. Now, hopefully they can get serious about balancing the budget," the presidential contender wrote in a tweet at the time. After launching his campaign for the White House in April, Johnson said that Republicans should be doing more to cut government spending during an appearance on ABC News' "Top Line." "I think we should balance the federal budget tomorrow," said the libertarian voice. "I'm optimistic. I think Americans are optimistic. We went to the moon, we can balance the federal budget." He added, "We're not addressing the problems that we face, and that starts with Medicaid, Medicare, reforming Social Security and Defense. And I mean cutting those areas."
Last month, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum lauded House Republicans for voting down a clean measure to raising the debt ceiling. "Conservatives in the House are absolutely right," the presidential hopeful wrote in a post on Facebook. "We cannot continue to write blank checks that our nation cannot cash. Before we again raise our nation's debt ceiling, we must insure that the major components of our exploding debt are under control, namely our entitlement programs." In defining his position on the spending issue, Santorum continued, "Furthermore, we must put into practice a dollar for dollar savings plan, where for every dollar we raise the debt ceiling the government reduces spending by one dollar. Finally, we must enact a Balanced Budget Amendment, like the one I advocated for nearly 15 years ago, to ensure that this Administration and every Administration hereafter keeps our nation on a fiscally responsible path." Santorum also addressed how the issue of health care reform factors into his stance on raising the deficit limit during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday." Here's an excerpt of the exchange that took place between the Republican contender and network host Chris Wallace: SANTORUM: This is a program that if the president wants to defend it, he should stand up and say the 2012 election is about Obamacare. We'll put this on hold, and make it a referendum on Obamacare. WALLACE: Well, okay that's one thing, 2012 election, you're saying you'd let the country go into default on this issue. SANTORUM: No, I think the president would let this go into default on this issue. WALLACE: But you would make that the condition -- you'd make that the price? SANTORUM: Absolutely, absolutely.
Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman has come out in support of the tough approach House Speaker John Bohener has taken to debt ceiling negotiations. "What is really scary I think to me and I think most Americans is our debt," he said during a stop in New Hampshire last month. "And we've got to be bold, and we've got to have, I think, proposals on the table that perhaps in years past would've been laughed out of the room," he said. "We don't have a choice. ... We've hit the wall." HuffPost's Jon Ward reported at the time: Asked a moment later about the ongoing fight over whether or not to raise the debt ceiling, Huntsman took the same position as Boehner (R-Ohio), and actually went one step further by giving a nod to conservative firebrand Sen. Jim DeMint's (R-S.C.) proposed balanced-budget amendment. "I would vote to increase the debt limit if there was a corresponding level of cuts," Huntsman said. "And if there was some serious talk about a balanced-budget amendment." The statements marked a clear play by Huntsman to brand himself not as President Barack Obama's former ambassador but as a strong ally of the top Republicans fighting Obama on health care and spending in Washington. It was also meant to blunt criticism of him based on his past support for cap-and-trade programs, for giving state aid benefits to children of illegal immigrants and his continued support for civil unions for gay couples.
During a recent appearance on Fox News, former Godfathers Pizza CEO Herman Cain said, "I don't believe we need to raise the debt limit...we need to pay those things that need to get paid first and do some serious cutting." Just weeks earlier, Cain made similar remarks in launching his presidential campaign in Atlanta, Georgia. "Let me tell you what the Cain Doctrine would be: We ain't raising the debt ceiling," he said, according to ABC News. "We are going to cut cut the spending." Cain came under scrutiny later that weekend when he said that he thinks "raising the debt ceiling is also going to be a negative against the market confidence" during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday." Even conservatives have warned of the potential for negative market reaction if the deficit limit is not lifted. Here's an excerpt of the exchange between Cain and network host Chris Wallace: WALLACE: Yes. But Bernanke is saying, at this point, you've got to make a deal. And you've got to make a deal and raise the debt ceiling. And if you don't and you just pay the debt off, that still going to frighten the market. CAIN: And I would agree with him. I agree -- WALLACE: So, you just said the Cain plan is wrong. CAIN: No, I didn't. I said that they allowed themselves to get in a hole. They allowed themselves to get between a rock and a hard place. What I said about identifying those four things and pay those first, if they had done this a year ago, anticipating this, it would have worked. He's right. WALLACE: But is the Cain plan right or wrong now? CAIN: The Cain plan can't work now. It cannot work now, simply because they waited too long. And this is part of the problem. They wait until a problem is at a disaster point and then go to the American people and say, we have no choice. That's not leadership. That's not good decisions.
U.S. Rep. Ron Paul has reliably come out against voting for any increase in the debt ceiling, telling CNN's Candy Crowley earlier this month that he considers the push for deficit reduction in the House "one hundred percent gamesmanship" and the efforts of the bipartisian deficit group led by Vice President Biden, "just a joke."
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