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More conservatives plead with GOP to abandon debt-ceiling ultimatum

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J. Scott Applewhite/AP/File

(Read caption) House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio (l.), seen here with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky in a file photo, has insisted that any increase in the debt ceiling be accompanied by spending cuts.

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The threat by congressional Republicans not to raise the debt ceiling – possibly allowing the United States to go into default – doesn't seem to be scaring President Obama, at least based on his ongoing refusal to negotiate on the matter.

But it is clearly scaring many members of their own party. 

With the US likely to hit the limit on its borrowing authority as early as mid-February, more and more Republicans are publicly beseeching their party to drop the game of chicken – calling it both bad policy and bad politics – and focus instead on other, less-risky opportunities to push for spending cuts.

As the GOP begins a three-day retreat Wednesday to plot out legislative strategy, The Wall Street Journal reports that party leaders have grown "anxious" about the debt-ceiling standoff, writing that some members are worried "about the economic impact of the government's possibly missing some payments."

More important, Republican leaders are facing growing pressure from traditional allies outside of Congress, many of whom clearly view the fight as damaging for the country and suicidal for the party. Business groups like the Chamber of Commerce have been urging Republicans to back down on the debt ceiling for weeks now. As The New York Times's Jackie Calmes reports, it's creating an unusual shifting of alliances, with the White House asking business leaders directly to lobby Republicans on the matter. The piece quotes David Cote, the Republican CEO of Honeywell, as saying: "I'm agreeing with the president – you should not be using the debt limit as a bargaining chip when it comes to how you run the country."

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