Echoing President Obama’s refusal to negotiate on the debt limit, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) warned Republicans on Friday that Democrats have no intention of giving in to any of their demands in exchange for lifting the nation’s borrowing limit to pay its bills.
“I think that risking government shutdown, risking not raising the debt ceiling, is playing with fire,” Schumer told reporters in the Capitol, in response to a question from TPM. “Anyone who wants to come and negotiate, and say ‘we will raise the debt ceiling only if you do A, B, C’ will not have a negotiating partner. And if then they don’t want to raise the debt ceiling, it’ll be on their shoulders. I would bet that they would not go forward with that.”
The No. 3 Democrat declared that Obama and congressional Democrats have learned their lesson from the 2011 fiasco that nearly led to a default. He predicted that Republicans will give in and cleanly raise the country’s borrowing authority — which expires around March — if Democrats stonewall and give them no other option.
“If they realize for sure that they’re not going to have a negotiating partner, they’ll have to find another route to bring the change that they want and they won’t risk the full faith and credit of the United States. The only way they get leverage is when they think we might negotiate on those issues.” he said. “There was a very sad moment in 2011 when that happened. And I think there’s a strong consensus at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue among Democrats not to repeat what I would call — I think what most of us would regard — as a mistake.”
Republicans feel burned after swallowing a deal that permits some $620 billion in tax hikes from current levels without any spending cuts. And they’re raising the stakes for the debt limit fight, promising that they’ll withhold their votes for lifting the ceiling unless Democrats agree to meaningful spending cuts, particularly on entitlement programs.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is preparing his members for the battle, telling them he’ll insist on at least one dollar in spending cuts for each dollar of increase in the debt limit. Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel said of Obama’s refusal to negotiate: “Wishful thinking is not a solution.”
Senate Republican leaders are working to draw Obama into the battle. In an op-ed for Yahoo News, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) warned that the president won’t get any new tax increases after the fiscal cliff deal. In a Friday op-ed for the Houston Chronicle, Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) warned that Republicans won’t back off their demands.
“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,” Cornyn wrote. “President Obama needs to take note of this reality and put forward a plan to avoid it immediately.”
TPM asked Schumer to respond to Cornyn’s op-ed, to which he quipped: “Well, I haven’t read my copy of the Houston Chronicle today.”
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.