House Republicans are privately contemplating a quiet surrender in the fight over Bush tax rates for top earners, and a quick pivot to a new fight over raising the debt limit, in which they'd demand steep cuts to programs like Medicare and Social Security.
The White House's official position on this plan is: cram it. Officials say they will not negotiate, or pay a ransom. Congress has to raise the debt limit, period.
"I will not play that game," Obama told the Business Roundtable on Wednesday. "We are not going to play that game next year. We've got to break that habit before it starts."
But privately, Obama and Democratic leaders have sought to weave a debt limit increase into ongoing negotiations to avert automatic tax increases and spending cuts at the end of the year. Their clear preference is to defuse that bomb now, in a bipartisan way, rather than to stare down the House GOP pointing a gun at the country's economy.
And recent remarks by Democratic leaders and interviews with top congressional aides suggest Democrats have no consensus plan to execute if the debt ceiling isn't increased before the end of the year.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other Dem leaders say that once the long fight over Bush tax cuts for the rich is resolved, the playing field will be evened, and the parties can negotiate further deficit reduction next year.
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