Pawlenty Ready to Back Gov’t Shutdown Over Debt Ceiling

Tim Pawlenty—who has all but announced his 2012 bid for the GOP presidential nomination—has come out against raising the federal debt ceiling, and he’s even willing to shut down the federal government over the issue.

In a Washington Post op-ed on Friday, the former Minnesota governor argues that Congress should refuse to act when US borrowing approaches the statutory cap later this year. Conservative Republicans have already threatened a standoff with the Obama administration over the debt ceiling, vowing to force America to default on its debts if Democrats don’t deliver the spending cuts the GOP wants. But even if the federal government were to shut down in the wake of a debt limit fight, the conflict could help the country in the long run, Pawlenty claims. A 2002 shutdown in Minnesota when Pawlenty was governor “changed the state’s spending pattern dramatically,” he writes.

Pawlenty also defended the utility of a federal government shutdown during a January 12 radio spot with the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer. Though Pawlenty was criticized for defending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in the interview with Fischer, he also emphasized that he was a fiscal right-winger as much as a social conservative:

FISCHER: You had a government shutdown over a budget battle back in 2002. What lessons would you want to pass on to fiscal conservatives today if that were to happen today in DC?

PAWLENTY: Well, two things. One is that you can’t be reckless about it. But we had a partial government shutdown in Minnesota and the world didn’t come to an end. And so you don’t want to have that be your goal. But sometimes, Bryan, when it’s appropriate and you’re standing on the right principles, there needs to be strong conviction and sometimes a showdown.

Though Pawlenty has stopped short of calling for a full-scale revolt, his hard line could encourage Congressional Republicans intent on drawing Democrats into a game of chicken as the debt ceiling fight draws nearer.