In the just concluded fiscal cliff fight, President Obama had one distinct advantage: the default result of the two parties agreeing to nothing was a $4.6 trillion tax hike. Since they have successfully branded themselves as the anti-tax party, Republicans simply could not allow that to happen.

But in the next two rounds, Republicans now have the default advantage. If the debt limit is not raised, Obama will be forced to cut federal spending by 44 percent. If the sequester is not rescinded, $1.2 trillion in spending cuts will go into effect. As the party of the welfare state, Democrats simply can not allow this to happen. Republicans are now in position to get the better side of the bargain. But what do they want?

This Wednesday, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan chatted with radio show host Hugh Hewitt about conservative strategy for the debt limit fight:

Hewitt: Will the Republicans speak with specificity as to what they are demanding on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as part of this round of spending reform?

Ryan: Yeah, I mean, I have been, we have twice already. I mean, this session ends today, or we have a new session tomorrow. We passed two budgets that showed you exactly how we would fix this. …

Hewitt: Now Congressman, I agree that the budget is very specific, but not as to the priority of what you must have in this deal. And I think one of the problems we had in the last two months is that there wasn’t great specificity as to what the Republicans insisted on having as opposed to wanting to have. … So is there a conversation underway? Will the Republicans on the Hill unveil their specific, must-haves as opposed to want to haves before we get to the end game, as happened over the last 48 hours?

Ryan: Yeah, I mean, I’m not going to get deep into detail, because we’re still having all those kinds of discussions among ourselves, and we need to have it with our friends in the Senate as well.

In other words, no, Republicans have no idea what they want to ask for in the upcoming debt limit debate. Yes, they want all the entitlement reforms in the Ryan budget, which are specific enough, but the Harry Reid Senate is never going to pass that budget and Obama would never sign it. So what, realistically, should Republicans insist on?

Nobody seems to know.

From The Washington Examiner
Examiner Editorial: This time, Boehner should honor transparency pledge
Tim Carney: Obama’s corporate tax breaks look bigger than his tax hikes on the rich
Joel Gehrke: Boehner wins, stays on as Speaker
Byron York: Republicans bet on stronger hand in spending fight

In Other News
Bloomberg News, Geithner Said to Plan Departure Before Debt Ceiling Deal: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has indicated to White House officials he wants to carry through with his plan to leave the administration by the end of this month, even if a deal on the debt limit isn’t in place.
The Wall Street Journal, Stocks Pull Back After Fed Release: Stocks slipped, snapping a two-day win streak, after minutes from the Federal Reserve’s December policy meeting indicated some members favored backing off efforts to stimulate the economy this year.
The New York Times, Obama Disputes Limits on Detainee Transfers Imposed in Defense Bill: President Obama set aside his veto threat and late Wednesday signed a defense bill that imposes restrictions on transferring detainees out of military prisons in Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. But he attached a signing statement claiming that he has the constitutional power to override the limits in the law.
The Washington Post, White House pushes forward on immigration ahead of bigger reform fight: The Obama administration’s decision this week to ease visa requirements for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants represents its latest move to reshape immigration through executive action, even as the White House gears up for an uncertain political fight over a far-more-sweeping legislative package in the months ahead.
The Wall street Journal, Google Dodges Antitrust Hit: U.S. antitrust regulators who spent nearly two years probing Google Inc.’s business practices came up virtually empty-handed, preserving the company’s dominant Web-search business and dealing a blow to competitors such as Microsoft Corp.

Righty Playbook
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, says the GOP needs to stand for opportunity.
Eugene Volokh looks at claims that the number of murders committed annually with hammers and clubs far outnumbers the number of murders committed with a rifle.
Matt Lewis claims the culture war is over, and conservatives lost

Lefty Playbook
Kevin Drum says lead is the hidden villain behind violent crime.
Nate Cohn says that the public won’t force Congress to pass gun control.
Think Progress notes that a Connecticut news paper placed a gun show ad next to a Sandy Hook story.