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

February 6, 2023 -- 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.”


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But Johnson vows Biden will not succeed in using the threat of economic calamity to split the Main Street caucus from the rest of the House Republican conference. “He’s going to need to come to the table and really negotiate,” said Johnson, 46, a third-term congressman and member of McCarthy’s kitchen cabinet of advisers included in House GOP leadership meetings.


“If [Biden] thinks that the Republicans are going to splinter off and get weaker and just be willing to accept a third of a loaf, that’s not going to happen,” he added. “We’re not going to default on this debt, but we absolutely have to make serious and material changes to how we spend money in this country. And Joe Biden’s got to accept that. And I think if he does, he’s going to have the Republican Conference in a united way being willing to cut a deal.”


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