CPAC: Renegade Republican Predicts Obamacare-Debt Ceiling Standoff

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Rep. Tim Huelskamp predicted Friday that House Republicans will try to use the White House’s next debt-limit request to raise the nation’s debt limit to kill Obamacare.

Offering remarks during an appearance at the CPAC convention, the Kansas Republican called the healthcare reform legislation championed by the Obama administration in 2010 “the most serious threat right now to fiscal health and stability of our nation” and hinted at a showdown.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said recently that House Republicans ultimately would not attempt to kill Obamacare this year when it considers a continuing resolution to fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

But Huelskamp, who has tussled with the GOP leadership in the past, noted that the White House must receive congressional approval to raise the debt ceiling, a device that limits the government’s borrowing capacity. The ceiling has been suspended until May 18. The current debt is about $16.7 trillion.

“We need to come to the table with a real plan,” he said. “That will be the battle.  If you don’t like Obamacare, here’s your chance to take it on and get real entitlement reform.”

House Republicans have threatened to hold hostage requests to increase the nation’s debt limit in the past. Accommodations have been made at the last minute, but President Obama and other officials insist that the ploy threatens the federal government’s ability to meet its financial obligations.

Huelskamp dismissed claims that delaying approval of the debt limit will throw the U.S. into default. Furthermore, he maintained that Obama would “absolutely’’ go to the mat and shut down the government to fund Obamacare.

“It’s something where we have to apply more pressure,” he said.

In an address that jumped from subject to subject, Huelskamp said the Republican Party’s inability to capture the White House in 2012 resulted from a lack of both leadership and a dedication to principles.

“Maybe it’s actually about us – we let our tactics get ahead of our responsibilities and ahead of our principles,” he said. “Why were we trying to get there in the first place? There was no clear playbook, no clear strategy, no clear mission.”

Huelskamp has been targeted by the House Republican leadership in the past for a lack of support. He said he was “kicked off the Agriculture Committee and the Budget Committee because as a fiscal conservative I didn’t vote the right way.”

“Leadership doesn’t like to be challenged to do the right thing,” he said.

Also relieved of their plum Budget and Banking committee assignments were Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and Dave Schweitkert (R-Ariz.).

Huelskamp, Amash, and Schweitkert all voted against the debt ceiling deal and the 2012 “Path to Prosperity” budget plan from Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Huelskamp charged afterward that GOPs were scored on their votes and “punished” if they didn’t pass the test.

In response, it was reported that Huelskamp and 11 others decided they “wanted to send a message that we wanted stronger leadership.” Huelskamp nominated Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to replace Boehner as speaker. That effort failed, but Huelskamp said he believes it had an impact. At a House Republican retreat earlier this year, he said, the caucus identified “key principles, key landmarks and key goals.”

One goal was to “simply let the sequester take place,” a move that cut a trillion dollars out of the federal budget over the next nine years.

On another issue, Huelskamp reacted negatively to the news that Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced his support for same-sex marriage after explaining that one of his sons informed the family that he is gay. Huelskamp, who has actively opposed the effort to permit same-sex marriage, said he didn’t approve.

“I support traditional marriage,” he said, adding that society has to “make sure every child has a mom and a dad.”

“We have to do a better job standing up for those principles,” he said.

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