Ranks of Republicans Refusing a ‘Clean’ Debt Ceiling Hike Grows

Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., speaks during a news conference on January 11. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Republican pragmatists in the House of Representatives have a message for President Joe Biden: We don’t support a clean debt ceiling increase, either. 

Rep. Dusty Johnson says that the group of pragmatic conservatives he leads in the House would oppose legislation raising the federal borrowing limit absent an accompanying deal with Biden and Senate Democrats to rein in government spending and reduce Washington’s $31.4 trillion debt. Absent such an agreement, the United States risks defaulting on its financial obligations, conceded Johnson, chairman of the Main Street Caucus, which now numbers more than 70*. 

“I don’t know a single pragmatic conservative who supports a clean debt ceiling increase,” the South Dakota Republican told The Dispatch in an interview Thursday. “If President Biden decides he wants to be a legislative terrorist who refuses to have a discussion about—who refuses to discuss meaningful action on a $32 trillion debt, then he has the power to hurt America. There’s no question about that.” 

Inside the Beltway, the “Will they or won’t they?” chatter about Republicans and a debt ceiling increase typically revolves around the House Freedom Caucus. This group of roughly 45 conservative insurgents tends to demand steep spending cuts and debt reduction measures in exchange for their votes to hike the federal borrowing limit. (At least, that’s been the case under Democratic presidents; it wasn’t under former President Donald Trump.) 

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