U.S. Capitol

Republicans are heavily favored to retain control of the House — so far.

By ALEX ISENSTADT | 7/26/13 5:00 AM EDT

Not again.

That’s the message several national GOP strategists and some lawmakers have for Republicans hell bent on waging another fiscal fight this fall.

The 2014 midterm season is about to heat up – and President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies are eager to tag the GOP as the root cause of Washington dysfunction. The Republicans say they can ill afford another game of high-stakes brinksmanship in the looming negotiations over raising the debt ceiling and funding the government.

“The only way Republicans will lose the House is to shut down the government or default on the debt,” said Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, a former National Republican Congressional Committee chairman. “Shutting down the government is not in the best interests of the American people and it makes you look politically irresponsible.”

“I’m not inclined to jeopardize the crown jewel,” Cole added, “and the House of Representatives is the crown jewel in this election cycle.”

Capitol Hill has been immersed in debate over immigration and the farm bill, but that will change once Congress returns from its August recess. There’s an Oct. 1 due date for passing a continuing resolution to keep the government funded, and the nation is expected to hit its borrowing limit sometime between October and the end of the year.

Congressional Republicans are just beginning to put together a debt ceiling and government funding strategy, and there’s growing division within the party over what path to take.

House GOP leaders and many rank-and-file lawmakers appear to be itching for another showdown with the White House over raising the debt ceiling — one of the few real leverage points they have to deliver on their pledge to cut spending.

In the Senate, a trio of potential 2016 GOP contenders — Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Rand Paul of Kentucky — want to defund Obamacare as part of a deal to keep the government open. Other Republicans are warning the party shouldn’t go there: Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) called it the “dumbest idea” he had ever heard.

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