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Barbour Predicts Republicans Will Avoid Debt Cap Fight

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Jan. 31 (Bloomberg) -- Former Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour predicted House Republicans this year would avoid repeating a standoff over the federal debt limit because it was too politically damaging last time.

“We’ve already been to that movie,” Barbour said, adding that it contributed to the November Democratic sweep of statewide offices in Virginia shortly after the last debt-limit fight. “It has a bad outcome. It elected Terry McAuliffe governor.”

Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli might have won the Virginia governor’s race if he could have got back “that two-and-a-half weeks away when Ted Cruz’s team closed the government down,” Barbour said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt” airing this weekend.

Cruz, the Republican senator from Texas who led a battle to cut off funding for Obamacare that contributed to a 16-day partial government shutdown in October and stand-off on the debt limit, vowed Jan. 30 to fight again. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew has said Congress should raise the debt ceiling as soon as possible, and that the U.S. will reach its borrowing limit by late February. Cruz said it should be used as leverage to extract from the Democrats a new round of U.S. spending cuts.

Barbour also looked ahead to the party’s 2016 presidential primaries, arguing that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie can rebound from the scandal over the shutdown of lanes on the George Washington bridge. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush remains a potential candidate, held back only by his family ties to the last two Republican presidents, said Barbour, a former Mississippi governor who considered a bid for president in 2012.

Jeb Bush

“If Jeb Bush’s last name was Brown, he would be the favorite for the nomination,” Barbour said.

Barbour, founding partner of the Washington lobbying firm BGR Group, said he expects House Republicans this year will pass immigration legislation that allows undocumented workers to gain legal residency. He predicted rank-and-file Republican lawmakers would refuse to go along with legislation passed by the Senate that provides a path to citizenship.

“I think the House will pass what most immigrants want, and that is to be -- come out of the shadows, be able to work, to raise their families,” Barbour said.

House Speaker John Boehner urged fellow Republicans during a party retreat yesterday in Cambridge, Maryland, to back immigration legislation that would grant legal residency to undocumented workers.

The issue has been so divisive in the party that Representative Greg Walden of Oregon, who oversees House election races as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said a measure may not be unveiled for months until deadlines pass to mount primary challenges to incumbent lawmakers.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mike Dorning in Washington at mdorning@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net

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