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GOP co-chair of bipartisan House caucus indicates clean debt ceiling increase is off the table

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By Morgan Rimmer, CNN

Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a co-chair of the House Problem Solvers Caucus, said Sunday that GOP members of his bipartisan group are ready to break with their party leadership on some aspects of the debt ceiling negotiations but they remain committed to attaching some spending cuts.

“We can’t have a clean debt ceiling increase,” Fitzpatrick told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union,” indicating that it is still a red line for moderate and swing-district Republicans.

But he also added, “We’re going to do whatever is in the best interest of our country,” pointing to the bipartisan infrastructure package that passed with the help of several Republicans in 2021.

In the same interview, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, the caucus’s other co-chair, pushed back on the White House’s previous assertions that it would not negotiate on the debt ceiling.

“I think it’s irresponsible not to have the conversation, just like it’s irresponsible to default on our responsibilities as a country and put the full faith and credit United States at risk,” the New Jersey Democrat said.

President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy held talks at the White House last week to address the debt limit. McCarthy signaled optimism following the meeting that both he and Biden can reach consensus “long before” the United States reaches default.

The US hit the debt ceiling set by Congress in January, forcing the Treasury Department to start taking extraordinary measures to keep the government paying its bills and escalating pressure on Capitol Hill to avoid a catastrophic default later this year.

Gottheimer said the Problem Solvers Caucus is working on backup options if talks between Biden and McCarthy fall apart.

“Our hope, of course, is that leadership and the White House are able to work something out,” he said. “But we have to … keep working because the worst thing that could happen is we get to a point this summer where, suddenly, we can’t raise the debt ceiling, and the full faith and credit of the United States is at risk, and we don’t pay our debts. That’s unacceptable.”

Fitzpatrick said the caucus’s goal is to “have a failsafe option in the backdrop that will be ready to go to make sure that we get this job done.”

He would not specify what spending cuts he believes are necessary, instead arguing that the entire structure of the debt ceiling should be changed.

“Rather than have a numerical dollar amount — which doesn’t make any sense, we just end up raising it every other year — is convert it to something like a debt-to-GDP ratio, a number that could be agreed to, have a cure period thereafter. And if that cure does not occur, certain guardrails go up on discretionary spending,” Fitzpatrick said.

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