Tea party faces unusual opponent in national debt limit battle
Usually natural allies, the tea party and the business lobby are at odds over if and how to raise the national debt limit.
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"Raising the debt limit has traditionally always been a partisan-vote exercise – whatever party has the White House, it's their burden to find the votes," says R. Bruce Josten, the Chamber's executive vice president for government affairs. "But this time, I will bet you it will require 50-50 [effort from Democrats and Republicans] – or near 50-50 – to get it done. We are in a whole new realm of negotiation."Skip to next paragraph
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On Friday, the Chamber released a letter to Congress from a coalition of trade groups urging a “yes” vote on raising the debt ceiling no later than Aug. 2. “Failure to raise the debt by that time would create uncertainty and fear, and threaten the credit rating of the United States,” wrote Mr. Josten.
He added that Congress must also address the growing debt and the nation’s finances: “It is imperative that any path to deficit reduction focus on growing the economy and the tax base and cutting spending, especially mandatory spending, rather than shortsighted tax increases,” he added.
Grass-roots tea party groups, meanwhile, are pushing to hold conservative lawmakers to their pledges to vote against raising the ceiling – or to do so only if Congress enacts new spending limits.
"Most of the grass-roots movement is becoming impatient with the big business community's insistence that the federal government must remain a trough in which we can sop up our goodies," says former House majority leader Richard Armey, a Texas Republican who helped launch the tea party movement as chairman of FreedomWorks.
Republicans oppose raising the debt limit by 70 percent to 8 percent and want their member of Congress to vote against the measure, according to a Gallup poll, released on Friday. Democrats favor raising the ceiling by 33 percent to 26 percent. Independents oppose raising the debt ceiling by a 47 percent to 19 percent margin, the poll concludes.
Another poll, released Monday and focusing on the impact of default, finds that most Americans see the prospect of a default on the national debt as “disastrous,” but Republicans and tea-party supporters less so. Only 49 percent of Republicans and 43 percent of strong tea-party supporters said that default would be “disastrous,” while 38 percent of Republicans and 43 percent of tea-party supporters said that consequences would not be serious, according to the Politico-George Washington University battleground poll.
In contrast with big business groups, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), representing 350,000 small businesses, has opposed a big federal stimulus and is focused on cutting deficits and reining in the debt.