GOP strategists warn party to stop playing games with debt ceiling

By David Ferguson
Saturday, January 4, 2014 15:05 EDT
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Ted Cruz speaks in his Senate office
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Republican strategists are attempting to warn the party that they have seen the biggest threat facing the GOP in the 2014 midterm elections and that it is themselves. Talking Points Memo reported on a blog post at The Hill that said the party’s tactical gurus are urging conservatives not to play their usual hostage game with the debt ceiling when it comes up for renewal for fear of a public backlash.

“What Republicans have to realize [is] the political winds are in our direction. We can’t risk changing the winds at this stage,” said GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak to The Hill. “You can shut down the Obama agenda completely if you have the Senate.”

Conservatives believe that the GOP can hold on to a majority in the House of Representatives and retake the Senate for the first time since 2006 by playing up the initial difficulties of the Obamacare rollout. However, if the disastrous government shutdown in the fall of 2013 — spearheaded by freshman Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) and other far-right Tea Party politicians — is any indication, the Republicans could squander whatever good will they may have gained with the public by attempting another such political stunt.

“When Republicans screw with the debt ceiling and threaten a government shutdown, their unfavorable ratings go up. When they talk about Obamacare, Democrats’ unfavorables go up,” said longtime GOP strategist Mark McKinnon.

“The only way you lose the House is if Dems intercept a Hail Mary pass on the debt ceiling,” an anonymous GOP planner said to The Hill. “If you lose the House, you open the door to everything.”

Nonetheless, Republican politicians appear to be gearing up for another fight when the debt ceiling comes up for renewal in February or March.

Tom Kludt at TPM wrote, “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) already foreshadowed a coming debt ceiling fight last month, and The Hill noted that fiery tea partiers like Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) “are sounding as combative as ever.”

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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