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Why debt limit issue may drag on through Election 2012

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“If you can get a balanced budget amendment out of the Senate, you redefine the 2012 election,” says Michael Franc, vice president for government studies at the Heritage Foundation. Most Americans favor a balanced budget amendment, but balk when faced with the specific cuts needed to achieve a budget in which expenditures equal revenues.

For Congress, the debt limit is the ultimate pressure point for a House facing a president of the opposite party. The US Treasury estimates that the US will breach that limit on May 16, but can use accounting devices to extend that deadline until Aug. 2.

It will be a must-pass bill, and rank-and-file Republican lawmakers – as well as outside conservative groups – aim to hang as much on it as they can, including measures to defund President Obama’s health-care reform, mandatory spending caps, or a constitutional balanced budget amendment.

Some tea party groups oppose any hike in the debt limit, period. In Washington on Monday, tea party leaders announced the opening day of “RINO hunting season” (Republicans in Name Only) and blasted Boehner for conceding too much in previous budget negotiations with the Obama White House.

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