GOP hopefuls cheer for a spending showdown

By Philip Elliott

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Feb. 28 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

"It's time to force our elected officials to stop spending cold turkey, and we can start by making sure they do not raise the debt ceiling," she told her supporters.

Bachmann also blamed Democrats for fears of a shutdown.

"That's a bugaboo that the liberals right now are trying to throw out to scare the American people. No one is going to agree to a government shutdown. That will not happen. So let's just take that off the table," she told Newsmax, a conservative online publication.

Republicans hope their strategy will force Democrats to explain why they want a larger credit card without first cutting government spending. Democrats aren't making it easy. They're on the verge of agreeing to some temporary cuts endorsed by Obama while putting off until later decisions that might make a real dent in the government's annual deficits.

With Obama proposing a $3.7 trillion budget for next year and Republicans demanding deep cuts, the situation gives would-be White House contenders a chance to earn the public's attention at a point when their campaigns are still coming together.

And no one ever lost votes by criticizing Washington.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney blames Obama for "frightening new levels of federal spending and deficits."

"I've never seen an enterprise in more desperate need of a turnaround than the U.S. government," Romney said. "A vote on raising the debt ceiling has to be accompanied by a major effort to restructure and reduce the size of government."

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a White House budget director for President George W. Bush, said Republicans should extract "eight pounds of flesh in the form of major spending cuts" as part of any deal to raise the $14.3 trillion ceiling on the government's debt.

Barbour points to GOP governors' records balancing their states' books, noting that he cut Mississippi's spending by 9.4 percent last year.

But Barbour also supports raising the debt ceiling. "America would suffer enormous consequences," he said in a recent interview with Fox News. "The dollar is the currency of the world; it won't be if we default."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is poised to begin a White House bid in the coming weeks, encouraged lawmakers to raise the debt limit — but not without first extracting the spending cuts they promised during the midterm elections.

"Another shutdown of the federal government is not an ideal result, but for House Republicans, breaking their word would be far worse," he wrote over the weekend in an opinion piece for The Washington Post.

Gingrich is well aware of a similar faceoff with a Democratic White House that resulted in the government shutdowns in 1995. At the time, President Bill Clinton blamed the shutdown on Republicans and marched toward re-election a year later.

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