The Republicans surged to majority status in the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2010 thanks in large part to the support of many independent voters who shifted their allegiance to the GOP. But the party's candidates risk losing that support, and also losing the voter intensity and enthusiasm they would otherwise likely enjoy in November 2012, if congressional Republicans sign on to any legislative scheme that raises the federal debt ceiling. It's just that simple.
Polls indicate that most of those who identify themselves as either Republican or independent voters say definitively that they don't want the debt ceiling raised, regardless of what alleged remedy might be used to justify such action. Yes, they have heard the dire warnings in recent days of potential economic disaster, unpaid Social Security benefits and even elimination of their own personal credit cards if the debt ceiling isn't raised. They don't care because they don't trust these doomsday statements.
Specifically, they recall the TARP program. That's the congressional action that not only "saved" banks and automakers, but led just a few years later to record profits for those institutions. That's money that never reached the public.
Too many people still can't get a loan. Others are hounded by credit card companies if they are a day late in paying their bills. And Americans are still paying hefty prices for cars and trucks that must be fueled by increasingly expensive gasoline.
These voters simply don't believe the assurances of President Obama, particularly in light of his stimulus program that promised the nation an 8 percent unemployment rate that hasn't materialized.
The GOP leadership in the House has slowly come to realize that any deal they agree to that doesn't include major budget cuts -- which by necessity would include cuts to entitlement programs -- will result in a stunning rebuke from conservative and independent voters. After all, those voters put the Republicans in charge in large part to avoid slick compromise deals and halfhearted efforts to rein in spending.
But the GOP leadership in the Senate seems even now not get it. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's proposal to give Obama the authority to raise the ceiling is a nonstarter with most conservative Republicans. It smacks of game-playing and shirking the duty of making tough choices.