Three more Republican congressmen are adding their names to the Shutdown Caucus, which is vowing to shut down the federal government rather than raise the debt ceiling and prevent the country from going into default. The new members include Reps. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), Jack Kingston (R-GA), and Ron Paul (R-TX).
Lewis and Kingston, caught in a battle to become the next chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, are each trying to out-conservative the other. Slate’s Dave Weigel notes that both men declared their intentions to oppose an increase in the debt ceiling on a Tea Party Patriots conference call last night. Neither wants to become the next Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), who is facing a massive Tea Party-fueled uprising against his bid to become the next chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee because he is viewed as insufficiently conservative.
Tea Party Godfather Ron Paul also implored his fellow congressmen to stand firm in an editorial, “Don’t Raise the Debt Ceiling!”:
The upcoming vote will provide an interesting litmus test for the new Republican congressional majority, especially those new members closely identified with Tea Party voters. The debt ceiling law [...] also, however, forces Congress into an open and presumably somewhat shameful vote to approve more borrowing.
If the new Congress gives in to establishment pressure and media alarmism about “shutting down the government” by voting to increase the debt ceiling once again, you will know that the status quo has prevailed. You will know that Congress, despite the rhetoric of the midterm elections, is doing business as usual. You will know that the simple notion of balancing the budget, by limiting federal spending to federal revenue, remains a shallow and laughable campaign platitude. [...]
I have two simple proposals when the new Congress convenes in January. First, refuse to raise the debt ceiling. Find a way, month by month, for Congress to spend only what the Treasury raises in revenue. Second, start over from scratch with the 13 appropriations bills that fund the federal government. Reject any talk of baseline budgets or discretionary spending. It is all discretionary, and members of both parties should vote against any 2012 appropriation bill that is not at least 10% smaller– in nominal dollars– than its 2011 counterpart.
Still, Republican leaders are divided on the issue. While RNC Chairman Michael Steele has vowed, in unequivocal terms, that Republicans were “not going to compromise on raising the debt ceiling,” incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has promised to hold a clean up-or-down vote on the issue because failing to do so would make Republicans look like a bunch of “yahoos.” Just today, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) admonished Republicans who would play games with the debt ceiling, calling them “naïve” because “you can’t shut down the government.”