WASHINGTON -- Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) on Sunday doubled down on the idea that Republicans should use the debt ceiling as leverage in fiscal talks with President Barack Obama -- a prospect that Obama has already said is a nonstarter after last year's debt standoff resulted in America's first credit downgrade and billions lost in taxpayer dollars.
During an appearance on "Fox News Sunday," Corker said Republicans will probably have to go along with Democrats' demands to let the Bush-era tax cuts expire on the top 2 percent of Americans in a fiscal cliff deal. But in return, he said, Republicans should vow not to raise the debt ceiling unless it is tied to significant cuts to Medicare.
"Let's face it. [Obama] has the upper hand on taxes and you have to pass something to keep it from happening," Corker said. "If we were to pass, for instance, raising the top 2 rates and that's it, all of a sudden we do have the leverage of the debt ceiling and we haven't given that up. So the only way the debt ceiling, I think, is given up is if the president comes to the table, talks with Speaker Boehner about real entitlement reform."
Republicans "know they have the debt ceiling" as leverage, Corker continued. "Hopefully, we'll do the same thing we did last time. And that is if the president wants to raise the debt limit by $2 trillion, we get $2 trillion in spending reductions. And hopefully this time, it is mostly oriented towards entitlement and with no process."
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), also on the show, immediately shot down that idea, predicting that Republicans would fail if they dragged the debt ceiling into larger fiscal negotiations. Instead, he said an agreement to raise the debt ceiling will likely be part of a deal struck this month and no longer part of broader fiscal talks.
"Frankly, our Republican colleagues have learned that to say the government will not pay its debts and hold it up for something else is bad substance and bad politics. I don't think they'll prevail on that," Schumer said. "That position is untenable politically and it will not last. You will not be able to hold it."
Congress needs to take action to raise the debt ceiling by early February, when the government is expected to run out of money. The nation's debt limit is currently $16.4 trillion.