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House to reject debt limit increase without cuts

WASHINGTON — The GOP-led House is poised to reject a bill Tuesday to increase the nation’s debt limit without the big spending cuts that Republicans are demanding. The move is intended as an embarrassing reminder to Democrats that increasing the government’s ability to borrow is tied to such reductions.

Tuesday’s vote would also allow tea party-backed Republicans to go on record against an increase in the debt ceiling, especially since it won’t be accompanied by big spending cuts that GOP leaders are demanding.

“The reason we are having the vote is to demonstrate there is absolutely no support, or almost no support, for what the administration has been asking for,” said Kevin Smith, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. “If we’re going to raise the debt limit, the administration’s going to have to get very serious about cutting spending.”

Some Democrats, like Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont, have called for a so-called clean increase in the debt limit.

“Republicans are playing with fire by voting against an extension of the debt limit today. I hope that the markets understand a political stunt when they see one,” said Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y. “Because, to much of the world, putting the full faith and credit of our nation at risk understandably seems like playing Russian roulette.”

The real, serious effort to increase the borrowing cap will come this summer and will be paired with spending cuts of $1 trillion or more, according to Vice President Joe Biden, who’s leading negotiations with top lawmakers in an effort to come up with the cuts.

The vote is scheduled for Tuesday evening, well after the close of U.S. financial markets. Nervous investors are seeking reassurances that there won’t be a first-time, market-rattling default on U.S. bonds that would erode the United States’ AAA bond rating.

House Republican leaders have been holding a series of closed-door meetings to educate lawmakers about the need to increase the debt limit despite opinion polls that show voters hate the idea. There’s strong reluctance among rank-and-file Republicans, however, which will likely mean that Democratic votes will be needed to pass the legislation in the end.

On Tuesday, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, said that GOP leaders were holding the vote to give GOP lawmakers “cover” in advance of the real vote this summer — a chance to record a “no” vote before facing the must-pass measure.

“This will not be an adult moment on the floor of the House,” Hoyer said.