The politics have changed. Republicans were blamed for the government shutdown last October, which was triggered by an effort to defund Obamacare. Although that wasn’t debt ceiling politics, the GOP would be blamed now if Congress failed to raise the debt limit. A CNN/ORC International poll released Feb. 3 found that 54 percent of Americans would blame Republicans if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, while 29 percent would blame the president. Twelve percent would blame both sides.
Republicans know that their leverage is limited and that the public is tired of Washington dysfunction. But some Republicans still want to make a point about issues they care about by linking them to an increase in the debt ceiling. For a while, Republicans wanted to link presidential approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline with an increase in the debt ceiling. Another target was a repeal of “risk corridors” – one of the risk mitigation measures in Obamacare that opponents call a “bailout” of insurance companies. Both strategies fell by the wayside.