It turns out even the most hardline Republicans could actually be convinced to raise the debt ceiling and even raise taxes--but for a price far too high for the White House be consider.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who is working with President Obama to reach a deal, said this week that when Democrats demand tax increases in the negotiating room, he counters with his own demand to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the health care law passed last year.
"If you go back to when the Biden talks began, there was always a category of items that were sort of off limits for both sides," Cantor said Monday. "One of them for us was that we're not going to raise taxes, especially in such a sputtering economy. And for them it was always Obamacare. And every time the discussion started about, 'well, Republicans need to raise taxes,' I would proffer back: 'Well then you put Obamacare repeal on the table.' It's the same."
Translation: You slaughter our sacred cow, we get to slaughter one of yours.
Cantor was using the scenario as an example to drive home his opposition to tax hikes-- he knows full well that Obama would never go for it, nor would congressional Democrats. But other GOP lawmakers think it's not a bad trade-off at all.
Dozens of House Republican who were elected for the first time last year campaigned on a promise that they would vote against raising the debt ceiling. Some have since backtracked by saying they'll accept a higher ceiling with spending reductions--but a strong contingent of tea party-backed freshman have vowed not to support a debt-ceiling hike under any circumstances. Except--just maybe--in return for health care repeal.
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, the founder of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus and now a presidential candidate, said Tuesday that even she would support raising the debt limit in exchange for full repeal of the health care law. Other members of the caucus said they'd second that position in the unlikely event it would ever emerge in the debt talks
"They'd have to cut an enormous amount," Bachmann said on Fox News when asked what it would take to get her vote. "Including they would have to defund Obamacare."
For what it's worth, the idea even caught the attention of conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg, an editor at the National Review magazine.
"GOP should insist that ObamaCare be on the table if tax hikes are," Goldberg said in a Tuesday post on Twitter. " 'Everything' on the table covers that crappy law, too."
Don't look for anything like that to happen as the debt talks grind on--but all the discussion of this hypothetical grand bargain just goes to show that in Washington, everyone has their price.