* Another battle likely in spring over borrowing limit
* Budget deal fails to deter conservatives
* Obama spokesman says president will not negotiate
By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON, Dec 18 Even as a touch of bipartisan
bonhomie settles over Washington with the passage of a budget
compromise, conservatives in Congress are planning their next
attempt to rein in government spending when the U.S. bumps up
against its borrowing limit in the spring.
Tea Party-oriented conservatives, who failed in efforts to
stop the budget deal, say they may have a better chance at
attaching new fiscal restraints to legislation raising the U.S.
"There are a lot of people that would rather fight the
battle of spending on the debt ceiling rather than the
government funding bill," said Representative Steve Scalise, a
Louisiana Republican who leads the Republican Study Committee,
the largest group of conservatives in the House of
U.S. officials will be seeking congressional authorization
for an increase in the debt limit some time in the spring, with
the threat of a government default hanging over their heads.
It's a step Congress must take periodically that
conservatives label as Exhibit A in Washington's addiction to
deficit spending. They have waged two market-rattling fights
over the borrowing limit since 2011, which resulted in Standard
and Poor's downgrading the U.S. credit rating.
President Barack Obama's press secretary, Jay Carney,
reiterated Wednesday that Obama will refuse as he has in the
past to negotiate over the debt ceiling.
But there are early signs, at least, that the Tea Party
Republicans won't be as isolated as they were in the debate over
the budget deal, when opponents of the deal were rebuffed by the
Representative Paul Ryan, the Republican Budget Committee
chairman who helped negotiate the spending deal, pointedly noted
in a Fox News Sunday interview that he wants to get something in
exchange for raising the debt ceiling and that Republicans would
meet after the holidays to discuss possible demands.
Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said
Tuesday that he doubted that the House "or for that matter the
Senate is willing to give the president a clean debt ceiling
Scalise wants structural reforms to the so-called
"mandatory" spending programs such as Medicare, the government
health care program for the elderly.
Some House Tea Party adherents are skeptical of the
Republican leadership, though. "What I think our leadership has
missed is how upset conservatives are with the party" over the
budget deal, said Representative Tim Huelskamp, a Kansas
Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson said some
lawmakers, especially in the Republican-majority House, might
want to use the debt ceiling as an opportunity to push again for
changes in Obama's health care law following the program's
disastrous website rollout.
"I actually think the American people expect that (lawmakers
attach reforms to the debt ceiling)," Johnson said. "They don't
want to see the debt burden increase on their kids and grandkids
without doing something."
"There's a lot of fight left in us," said Senator Pat Toomey
of Pennsylvania, another Republican associated with the Tea