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A Divided Public Wants Congress to Cut Spending — Even if They Have to Use the Ted Cruz Strategy

"Just bad economics."

A view of the U.S. Capitol building on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (TheBlaze/AP) -- A divided public thinks it's worth shutting the government or halting its ability to borrow to pay bills — a la Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) circa 2013 — unless President Barack Obama consents to spending cuts, an Associated Press-GfK poll has found. Predictably, Democratic and Republican loyalists have starkly different views.

A view of the U.S. Capitol building on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013 in Washington.  (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci) A view of the U.S. Capitol building on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Some specific goals of GOP lawmakers fare poorly when they are in the balance: There's little taste for forcing a shutdown over halting federal payments to Planned Parenthood, repealing Obama's health care overhaul or blocking a nuclear deal with Iran.

The survey was conducted earlier this month as Obama and the GOP-controlled Congress crept toward a pair of deadlines that, without action, could trigger jolting political and economic reverberations.

Republican congressional leaders struck a deal with their Democratic counterparts late Monday on a two-year budget deal aimed at averting a debt crisis and shuttering the government. A vote could come as early as Wednesday in the House. Failure to extend the government's ability to borrow money by early November could spark a destabilizing, first-ever federal default, while a partial government shutdown would begin if lawmakers don't approve money by Dec. 11 to keep agencies running.

Two years ago, Cruz, now a candidate in the GOP presidential primaries, engaged in a 21-hour-long, anti-Obamacare speech on the Senate floor that was, in part, responsible for the 2013 federal government shutdown. Cruz has been criticized for this tactic by fellow Republicans, including Carly Fiorina, who is also in the running for the conservative nomination.

Cruz also supported a move to defund Planned Parenthood earlier this year, which could have resulted in a shutdown as President Barack Obama threatened to veto such a measure. In the end, a government shutdown was avoided with a stopgap bill.

Earlier this month, Obama compared the Republican effort to defund Planned Parenthood to his "desire to do something about gun violence," but he went on to say "the notion that that unless they passed gun safety measures that would stop mass shootings I’m going to shut down the government and not sign an increase in the debt ceiling would be irresponsible of me."

Though many in the AP-GfK poll and rank-and-file congressional conservatives seem to disagree, top Republicans want to avoid a headline-grabbing shutdown or lapse of federal borrowing authority this year for fear of branding their party as unable to govern and alienating voters.

Fifty percent in the poll said Congress should only increase federal borrowing authority if government spending is substantially cut - a trade-off Republicans frequently demand but last won in a 2011 showdown with Obama. Another 35 percent said the debt limit should be raised by itself to avoid a default, with separate talks over budget cuts that wouldn't jeopardize a borrowing pact. Eleven percent opposed boosting the ceiling under any circumstances.

That finding masked a deeper partisan gap. While 58 percent of Democrats want to raise the debt limit and negotiate later over spending reductions, 73 percent of Republicans want to condition a borrowing ceiling increase on an agreement to cut expenditures.

"The long-term answer is to get the debt down so we don't have to keep extending" the borrowing cap, said Michael Fiorillo, 62, a Republican and software consultant from Plains, Georgia, who responded to the AP-GfK survey. "We're spending more than we're bringing in. That's just bad economics."

At the same time, 56 percent overall said it would be worth a government shutdown to win spending cuts, compared to 40 percent who disagreed. Once again, party differences were telling - 74 percent of Republicans were willing to close agencies to try winning budget reductions, while a lower, though surprisingly high, 44 percent of Democrats agreed.

"There are consequences for shutting down the government, it affects people in an immediate sense, like their jobs," said Serena Keiler, 38, a Democrat who works for an entertainment company in Los Angeles, California, and opposes a shutdown. "It's really an uncreative way of working toward a solution."

Only 1 in 4 overall backed forcing a shutdown to block Planned Parenthood's money, including fewer than half of Republicans. The GOP has unsuccessfully tried halting the group's federal payments because of abortions and fetal tissue donations it performs.

Just over a third backed a shutdown over annulling Obama's health law and around 4 in 10 supported the tactic to derail the nuclear pact with Iran.

Those sentiments contrasted sharply with the more aggressive views of tea party supporters, whose opinions influence some congressional Republicans. Among that conservative group, support for a shutdown over Planned Parenthood, the health care law, the Iran deal and cutting federal spending ran between 60 percent and 90 percent.

Tea party backers represent around one-fifth of those in the AP-GfK poll.

The survey highlights public indecision over extending the debt ceiling, which lets the government borrow money to pay costs that it has already incurred. By a small margin, more people oppose than support raising the limit while the bulk - more than 4 in 10 - are neutral.

More feel strongly that a default would cause a major economic crisis than deeply doubt that, by more than 2-1. Still, a significant 4 in 10 think that's only somewhat likely - even though most economists think a default would seriously hurt the world economy.

The AP-GfK Poll of 1,027 adults was conducted online Oct. 15 to 19. The sample was drawn from GfK's probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

Respondents were selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods and interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel without Internet access were provided it for free.

One last thing…
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