If Congress fails to reach accord on either a spending bill in February or a debt ceiling solution, it’s possible that much of the federal government would shut down for lack of funding. That’s what happened in 1995, and many Republicans don’t want a repeat.
The GOP-led Congress at the time clashed with President Bill Clinton over the budget, letting portions of the government close during the impasse. Public opinion swung against the Republicans, and the episode helped propel Clinton toward his 1996 re-election.
Even if the Boehner-led House can resolve its budget and debt differences with the White House, there could be trouble in the Senate. Republicans there can halt almost any bill with a filibuster.
Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee hopes to lead a group of colleagues in demanding tax and spending reforms before they agree to raise the debt ceiling.
But eyes will fall first on the House. Sixty-four Democratic-held seats have switched to Republicans, and some of the new GOP lawmakers have promised voters they would change the way Congress spends itself into debt.
“I don’t envy John Boehner,” said David DiMartino, a Democratic consultant and former Senate aide. “The looming vote on the debt ceiling will demonstrate Boehner’s ability to lead,” he said. “If that vote melts down he’s likely to fail to regain any semblance of control.”
The White House is offering little sympathy.
“There are no easy choices when it comes to cutting spending,” said White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer. Republicans ran a successful campaign by promising vaguely to cut taxes and spending, he said, and now they have to present a budget and “explain what it is they are willing to cut.”
AP White House Correspondent Ben Feller contributed to this report.