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Meantime, GOP opposition to raising the debt ceiling appears to be hardening, despite fears that it would push the economy over the edge.

“Currently, there is not a single debt limit proposal that can pass the House,” Mr. Cantor said in a statement this week.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, is preparing a “backup plan” to give Mr. Obama the authority to raise the debt ceiling in three installments by up to $2.5 trillion, accompanied by spending cuts equal to each increase. Lawmakers would then have 15 days to pass a resolution of disapproval. Mr. Obama could veto it, in which case the debt increase would become law.

The thinking in the White House high command right now is that if a budget-cutting deal isn’t forthcoming, a debt limit crisis cannot be averted and an offensive strategy is being prepared to blame it all on the Republicans.

If it comes to that, Mr. McConnell, who thinks the focus needs to be on spending and the Obama economy, not on the debit limit bill, will bring his plan up for a vote.

“All of a sudden, we have co-ownership of a bad economy. That is very bad positioning going into the an election,” Mr. McConnell said on the Laura Ingraham talk radio show Wednesday.

His strategy: Let Mr. Obama take full responsibility for raising the nation’s debt, along with a failing economy - the issues on which Republicans can defeat him and his party in the 2012 elections.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.