ANALYSIS: GOP seeks leverage on spending fight

The fiscal cliff was difficult for Republicans because it involved the expiration of the Bush tax rates in addition to possible spending cuts. The GOP needed to take positive steps to avoid an across-the-board increase in income tax rates. When the three-month debt limit extension ends, Republicans hope their bargaining posture will be strengthened by having taxes off the table and the existing law on their side.

Still, 33 House Republicans — including Amash — voted against the No Budget No Pay Act. Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul accused House leaders of waving “the white flag of surrender.” Paul’s allies at Campaign for Liberty released a statement the Friday before the vote saying, “The Republican retreat was only supposed to last a week, but now it appears it will last the entire 113th Congress.”

Disenchanted conservatives believe Republicans punted by voting to extend the borrowing limit without spending cuts and question whether the focus on the Senate’s budget-making will really bring about more favorable political conditions. Campaign for Liberty’s John Tate called it “a blank check to continued [President Obama’s] irresponsible spending and pile even more debt on the backs of our nation’s children.”

The House Republicans’ move nevertheless encountered less opposition from outside conservatives than either Plan B or the final fiscal cliff package. Club for Growth, which supports primary challenges against Republicans deemed too weak on taxes and spending, declined to oppose it.

But Club for Growth president Chris Chocola did criticize those Republicans he called the “weak-kneed caucus” Thursday. Roll Call quoted Chocola as saying he wished House Republicans were as willing to stand against public opinion for what they believed was right as Nancy Pelosi was in securing the passage of Obama’s health care reform law in 2009.

For GOP legislators, a lot is riding on whether their current strategy pays off in spending cuts, or they are still looking for leverage in May.

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