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Republicans are getting cold feet on their debt ceiling threat

Taegan Goddard

The GOP is no longer marching in lock step as the nation faces a new fiscal deadline

The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that House Republicans are "still unsure whether they should use a debt-ceiling deadline to force a decisive showdown" with President Obama over cutting government spending.

Party leaders apparently didn't coalesce around a strategy to present to the rank-and-file at a GOP retreat that begins today in Williamsburg, Va.

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But GOP backbenchers are already coming out against the debt ceiling as "hostage strategy." As Steve Benen notes, that "wasn't the case in 2011, when literally zero GOP lawmakers publicly denounced their party's hostage strategy, but it's certainly true now."

Some examples:

* Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.) told C-SPAN that the GOP’s debt ceiling strategy is "not a good scenario" and that raising it is "a mathematical imperative."

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* Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) told The Wall Street Journal that the GOP shouldn’t use the debt ceiling as leverage but should instead threaten to shut down the government.

* Meanwhile in the Senate, Greg Sargent reports that both Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) acknowledged that the debt ceiling must be raised because the United States cannot default on obligations to pay for spending that Congress has already approved.

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If Republicans think they can win spending and entitlement concessions from President Obama and Democrats by threatening not to raise the debt ceiling, their only hope is to stay absolutely united.

That plan already appears to be unraveling.

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