House GOP whip says "no votes" for debt ceiling increase without spending reform

With a difficult debate coming up this summer on budgets, spending, and American debt. don’t expect House Republicans to make it any easier for Barack Obama.  Despite calls from House Democrats to pass a “clean” debt-ceiling increase — one without any other riders — GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy says there is a grand total of zero votes in the majority caucus for that position:

A bill to raise the debt limit without spending cuts attached would not get a single Republican vote in the House, the GOP’s top vote-counter said Wednesday.

“I can tell you as the whip, there is not one Republican vote on a negative-debt-limit bill where no cuts are proposed,” House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters at a news conference.

While Republicans have demanded significant spending cuts and budget reforms in exchange for authorizing more U.S. borrowing, a majority of the House Democratic caucus has called for a “clean” debt ceiling vote, saying the GOP is holding hostage the full faith and credit of the federal government.

On the other hand, Eric Cantor suggested that there may be indeed one vote for a so-called clean bill.  The House Majority Leader told reporters that the GOP might allow Democrats to bring such a bill to the floor for a vote — just to demonstrate how little support it has.  It would also allow Republican challengers in 2012 to attack Democratic incumbents on the issue as irresponsible on spending and extreme, considering how unpopular a hike in the debt ceiling is on its own.

In this case, Republicans will be doing Democrats no favors with this gift.  Don’t expect Democrats in the House to accept this offer — and if they do get a floor vote on their proposal, expect a lot of defections among the remaining moderates in their caucus.

In the other chamber, Obama is having his issues with unity on the budget, too:

Obama will meet with the Democratic caucus to talk about a way forward on the stalled debt deal. As it stands, moderate Democrats like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin are taking a hard line on the debt limit and threatening to refuse Obama’s request for more borrowing power without spending curbs.

The current danger for Obama and Senate Majority leader Harry Reid is that the movement for spending caps will continue to gain support among moderates like Manchin.

The cap plan, also backed by Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, would set government spending at about 20 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (5 percent lower than current spending) and force across-the-board cuts if the government exceeds those limits.

With the bipartisan Gang of Six fading from the discussion and the administration’s August deadline for increasing government borrowing approaching, the pressure is growing on Reid and Obama to find a deal that can at least get the support of the Senate’s 53 Democrats.

Senate Democrats are feeling the same heat on this topic as their House counterparts — and less fortunately for them in this case, they actually count.  If the Democrat-controlled Senate attempts to float a debt-ceiling hike with no structural reductions in federal spending, 2012 will look like 2010 all over again for Democrats in what will already be a difficult election cycle.  House Democrats can hide behind their minority, but not those in the Senate.  And Obama won’t have the coattails to protect them, either.