The Senate’s No. 2 Republican is walking back his threat to use the debt ceiling and other fiscal deadlines to force President Obama to accede to deep spending cuts.
“We will raise the debt ceiling. We’re not going to default on our debt,” Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) said in an interview with the Houston Chronicle editorial board published Thursday. “I will tell you unequivocally, we’re not going to default.”
That’s a dramatic change in tone from just two weeks ago, when Cornyn wrote an op-ed in the Houston Chronicle pointedly threatening not to raise the debt limit or fund the government unless Obama agrees to scale back Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
“Republicans are more determined than ever to implement the spending cuts and structural entitlement reforms that are needed to secure the long-term fiscal integrity of our country,” he wrote. “The coming deadlines will be the next flashpoints in our ongoing fight to bring fiscal sanity to Washington. It may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal well being of our country, rather than plod along the path of Greece, Italy and Spain. President Obama needs to take note of this reality and put forward a plan to avoid it immediately.”
The shift comes amid a dramatic sea change in elite conservative and GOP opinion about the need to raise the debt ceiling by early March or default on the country’s obligations. With President Obama and Democrats holding firm in their refusal to make any concessions, Republican leaders and influential conservatives increasingly see their posture as infeasible, if not dangerous to their party’s viability.
Asked about the op-ed and his apparent change of heart, Cornyn told the Chronicle editorial board that it was simply a negotiating stance.
“You sometimes try to inject a little doubt in your negotiating partner about where you’re going to go,” he said, “but I would tell you unequivocally that we’re not going to default.”
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.