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Republicans prepare for another debt ceiling fight

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By Reuters
Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 8:30 p.m.

WASHINGTON — A key committee of the House of Representatives approved a measure on Wednesday designed to make it easier for Republicans to withhold approval of a rise in the government debt ceiling to extract spending cuts from President Obama.

The government is expected to hit the limit set by Congress on its ability to borrow money by late July or early August. Without an increase in debt ceiling, the United States faces the prospect of defaulting on its debts, which could shake up markets and damage the economy.

The bill, approved by the Republican-controlled House Ways and Means Committee, would seek to avoid default by requiring the Treasury to pay public bond-holders — as well as Social Security beneficiaries — in the event Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling.

“What this does is it removes that uncertainty and takes the threat of default off the table,” Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said.

Ryan acknowledged after the meeting that in his view, it would strip the White House of talking points it uses against Republican tactics.

In previous disputes when Republicans have threatened to block an increase in the debt ceiling, the president has accused the party of jeopardizing Social Security payments and shirking its responsibility to pay the nation's bills.

While the bill may pass the Republican-controlled House, it will almost certainly fail to win approval in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Democrats view the measure, which they call “prioritization,” as a ploy.

Obama has been adamant that he will not negotiate over the debt ceiling.

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