CLEVELAND — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told Ohio Republicans Friday night that America is at a tipping point and must draw a line in the sand in the fight over raising the national debt ceiling.
“This is the most important thing Congress is going to do over the next two years,” he said. “I don’t try to give Congress advice very often, but on this issue of debt, every Republican must weigh in. America is addicted to spending. We have to decide here and now. Are we going to be enablers to that spending addiction?”
Mr. Jindal spoke to a crowd of about 600 attending an Ohio Republican Party dinner that raised more than $200,000. Participants paid $100 for individual dinner tickets and $250 for individual tickets to a private reception with Mr. Jindal and party Chairman Kevin De- Wine.
Getting a deal to raise the debt ceiling proved as elusive as ever in Washington on Friday. Mr. Jindal urged his fellow Republicans to take advantage of President Obama’s “desperation” to get a deal on historic structural changes and spending cuts.
“[Mr. Obama is] saying we need more debt in order to keep our debt from strangling us,” he said.
Talking to reporters before his speech, Mr. Jindal, who spent three years in Congress, said his former colleagues should be willing to consider closing tax loopholes to make a deal happen — as long as government doesn’t see a net dollar gain as a result. A net gain is exactly what Democrats are looking for, he said.
“I have no problem with them closing loopholes, making the tax code simpler, if that is then used to lower tax rates,” he said. “I think it would be an absolute mistake to be raising taxes in the worst recession since the Great Depression.”
His position places him somewhat at odds with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who was conspicuously absent from last night’s event.
Mr. Kasich has criticized members of his own party for being unwilling to compromise to get a debt-ceiling deal passed before Aug. 2, the date on which Mr. Obama’s administration said the nation could face its first default on its debt payments.
In a speech Friday during a town-hall meeting at the University of Maryland, Mr. Obama again urged Republicans to agree to increased revenues.
“We can’t just close our deficit with spending cuts alone, because if we take that route it means that seniors would have to pay a lot more for Medicare, or students would have to pay a lot more for student loans,” he said.
“It means that laid-off workers might not be able to count on temporary assistance or training to help them get a new job. It means we’d have to make devastating cuts in education and medical research and clean-energy research — just at a time when gas prices are killing people at the pump.”
A straw poll taken by those at yesterday’s gathering here gave former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney the edge as their choice to take on Mr. Obama next year, although there were a few boos in the crowd when the results were announced.
Mr. Jindal had been mentioned as a potential contender himself, but he put off his national aspirations to concentrate on his own re-election in Louisiana this year.
After sweeping success in 2010, Republicans are looking to 2012 when Mr. Obama and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) will be on the ballot. But for this year, Mr. DeWine made it clear the party’s top priorities are a pair of statewide ballot issues.
A Democratic-backed question that has already qualified for the ballot would subject Senate Bill 5, the new law restricting the collective bargaining power of public employees, to an up or down vote by Ohioans. A second Republican-pushed constitutional amendment would allow Ohioans to reject elements of Mr. Obama’s signature health-care reform law.
“We all get why our political rivals want to kill [Senate Bill 5] … because Senate Bill 5 is designed to loosen the grip of government labor on the taxpayer, and these unions will stop at nothing to protect the status quo that keeps that protected and keeps them in power.
“Our opponents see this as an opportunity to attack the governor in a presidential race,” he said. “They want to use this as a way to marshal their forces and build their ground game for 2012.”
Lucas County Republican Party Chairman Jon Stainbrook said later that education will be the key to saving the collective-bargaining law.
“When you ask the workers who have negotiated certain benefits for themselves to make a very painful sacrifice, that’s no easy task,” he said. “But when people realize what dire straits we’re in as a state, that John Kasich is doing the right thing to actually bail us out as opposed to [former Gov. Ted] Strickland, who did nothing, and it’s explained concisely and clearly, the voters will be with us.”
Contact Jim Provance at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-221-0496.