They are losing the battle over higher taxes on the wealthy, so now Republicans are threatening a political war next year when it comes time to raise the nation's debt ceiling.
With cracks appearing in their anti-tax facade and polls showing most Americans favoring President Barack Obama's stance in fiscal cliff negotiations, GOP legislators are starting to advocate a tactical retreat to fight another day.
Conservative Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, promised the newly re-elected Obama a "rude awakening" next year if the president forces through his plan for high-income earners to pay more taxes without agreeing to substantive steps to reduce the nation's chronic federal deficits and debt.
"In February or March, you have to raise the debt ceiling," Graham noted Monday on Fox News. "And I can tell you this: there's a hardening on the Republican side. We're not going to raise the debt ceiling. We're not going to let Obama borrow any more money or any American Congress any more money until we fix this country from becoming Greece."
Meanwhile, the top congressional Republicans called Tuesday for Obama to make public the specific spending cuts he will offer in a deficit reduction deal.
Both House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell complained that Obama was deliberately holding up progress in negotiations by refusing to provide details of his cost-savings plans.
"Where are the president's spending cuts?" asked Boehner, R-Ohio, the lead GOP negotiator. "The longer the White House slow-walks this process, the closer our economy gets to the fiscal cliff."
In response, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi noted Congress had passed more than $1 trillion in spending cuts in the past two years that Obama signed into law.
"Where are the cuts? They're in bills that you, Mr. Speaker, have voted for," Pelosi said.
Three weeks remain to cut a deal before the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts of the fiscal cliff go into effect on January 1.
Without a deal during the current lame-duck session of Congress, everyone's taxes go up and economists warn the impact of the fiscal cliff could cause another recession.
However, the administration has signaled it can delay some of the effects to allow time to work out an agreement when a new Congress convenes in January.
Obama has held a campaign-style series of public events to back his call for extending Bush-era tax cuts for 98% of Americans while allowing rates to return to higher 1990s levels on income over $250,000.
The issue was central to his re-election in November and Obama made clear on Monday that he intended to adhere to his belief that the wealthy must contribute more.
"I'm willing to compromise a little bit," Obama said at a Michigan diesel engine plant. However, he said higher tax rates on the the top income brackets was "a principle I'm not going to compromise on."
The president's public push appears to be working as polls show most Americans back the president's position.
A new Politico/George Washington University survey on Monday said 60% of respondents supported Obama's proposal compared to 38% who opposed it, the latest of four surveys in the past two weeks showing public backing....
...Graham's comments Monday showed that Republicans plan to regroup around negotiations to raise the debt ceiling, which allows the government to borrow more money to pay its bills...
...However, a top House Democrat said that exploiting the debt ceiling for political gain would backfire on Republicans.
"Threatening to tank the entire economy, which is what would happen if we ever defaulted on our debt, is not a kind of negotiating strategy that is going to be popular with the American people," Rep. Chris Van Hollen told MSNBC on Monday.
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