CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Even as House Republicans in Washington were voting to postpone a showdown with President Obama on raising the federal debt limit, members of the Republican National Committee meeting here Wednesday displayed a determination to point the party in a new policy direction and urged GOP lawmakers to take a much tougher line.
In a string of motions, the RNC's Resolutions Committee called on congressional Republicans to oppose raising the debt ceiling unless there are spending cuts that significantly reduce America's $16 trillion debt; to push for major spending reductions in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; to vote to fund only "absolutely necessary," constitutionally permitted federal programs that justify borrowing from foreign governments; and to block federal bailouts of public employees' pension liabilities for state and local governments.
The RNC motions showed a clear desire by officials here to take a different tack than that offered by GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney last year. RNC members are meeting here for the annual three-day winter meeting.
"If we don't take a stand as party now, we are going to get shellacked in the next election," said Steve Scheffler, a Resolutions Committee member from Iowa.
"As much as I liked Mitt Romney, a lot of complaints I heard in Iowa were that his message was too mushy," said Mr. Scheffler, a founding member of the RNC's Conservative Caucus.
It wasn't until after the Resolutions Committee completed its work Wednesday afternoon that members learned that the GOP-controlled House had voted to extend the federal debt ceiling for three months, without getting any immediate spending cuts or debt reduction in return from Democrats.
"The bottom line is that the congressional Republicans yielded their power to an imperial president," said James Bopp Jr., a former vice chairman of the RNC. "And what did we get in return?"
On learning of the debt-extension vote, stunned RNC members shook their heads in disbelief as they milled about the lobby outside the Resolutions Committee hearing room at the Westin Hotel in downtown Charlotte.
"What we were trying to do with these resolutions is tell Congress to get responsible for a change," said Delaware GOP Chairman John Sigler. "We're warning them that Washington Beltway business-as-usual is totally unacceptable."
"We shouldn't have to tell them this again, but it's time for Congress to do the tough job they were elected to do," Mr. Sigler said.
Mr. Scheffler said he had warned before Wednesday's House vote that the party's grass-roots activists were going to be "pretty upset if House Republicans don't stare President Obama down."
"Now we know they didn't stare him down," he said.
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