Government shutdown may be part of debt ceiling talks


Republican lawmakers don't want new taxes included in the debt ceiling negotiations, and some say they'd be willing to let the federal government default on its bills. 

Speaking on ABC News's "This Week" on Jan. 6, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Republicans would not accept any new revenues in the deal. "The tax issue is behind us," McConnell said, "Now it's time to pivot and turn to the real issue, which is our spending addiction."

On Jan. 4, Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) went a step further and wrote that it "may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal wellbeing of our country," in an op-ed in the Houston Chronicle.

Cornyn's shutdown would be the unprecedented one of the government not paying bills it already owes--a different kind of shutdown from those caused by congressional refusal to pass new funding bills. Many Republicans hold that the Treasury Department could selectively pay governmental bills and so keep a default restricted to certain programs or areas. It's note a view shared by the department; during the 2011 debt ceiling crisis, Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin said the federal government can't prioritize that way and such efforts would not prevent a default of the entire government.

"Treasury has always emphasized," wrote Wolin, "that the only way to prevent default and protect America's creditworthiness is to enact a timely increase in the debt limit."

Cornyn's statement echoes what Sen. Pat Toomey told the Washington Post on Jan. 2: "We Republicans need to be willing to tolerate a temporary, partial government shutdown… We absolutely have to have this fight over the debt limit."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) signaled that new revenues won't be taken off the table yet, saying that Democrats will still consider new taxes and changes to the tax code, on CBS News's "Face the Nation" on Jan. 6.  She said the fiscal cliff legislation did not provide enough on the revenue side of things.

President Obama has said that he will not negotiate over raising the debt ceiling but Republicans may be able to force the issue since the White House has also said that the president does not have the authority to raise the debt ceiling without congressional approval.

For more:
- read McConnell's statement on ABC's "This Week"
- see Pelosi's comment on CBS' "Face the Nation"
- read Cornyn's op-ed

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