WILLIAMSBURG, Va. —
“This is the first step to get on the right track, reduce our deficit and get focused on creating better living conditions for our families and children. It’s time to come together and get to work,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia said in a statement issued as the rank and file headed back to Washington.
Republicans had additional objectives. Congress and the administration face three deadlines in the coming months, and Republicans want to rearrange the order in which they occur.
The debt limit presumably will need to be raised first. On March 1, across-the-board spending cuts are scheduled to kick in at the Pentagon and other federal agencies. On March 27, funding expires for most of the government, and a partial shutdown will occur unless it is renewed.
Several Republican officials say the party’s objective was to increase their leverage for negotiations with the White House and congressional Democrats by finessing a crisis over the debt limit, at least for the time being.
Nor did Republicans attempt to hide their political motivations. Within minutes of the end of the three-day retreat, the party’s campaign committee announced an online petition drive “to tell Senate Democrats, if you don’t pass a budget, you won’t get paid.”
Left unsaid was that Republicans had quietly bowed, at least temporarily, to Obama’s insistence that they raise the borrowing limit without spending cuts in return.
“They will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy,” the president said of Republicans a few days earlier. “What I will not do is to have that negotiation with a gun at the head of the American people.”
For their part, Republicans said they were leaving their retreat at a golf resort in good spirits and good condition.