Boehner's Debt Ceiling Plan Falls Short of Votes
Thursday, September 26, 2013 11:07 PM
By: Todd Beamon
House Speaker John Boehner’s plan to avert a government shutdown by turning to a debt-ceiling battle encountered stiff opposition from some Republicans on Thursday, as House leaders fell short of votes on a plan to exchange GOP demands for a yearlong suspension of the nation’s $16.7 trillion borrowing limit.
“We still have some challenges,” Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma and member of the GOP whip team, told The Hill . “We’ve got an awful lot of support, but clearly at this point, we don’t have a final product that’s attracting the number that we need.
"Hopefully, that’ll change — and I think it could,” Cole said.
He told the Hill that leaders were still working on the plan, which was presented in a private meeting with rank-and-file Republicans. The plan had been expected to go to the House Rules Committee on Thursday.
But GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington told the Hill late on Thursday that leaders were "still figuring out the timing" of a vote to raise the nation's debt limit as part of the plan.
The House debt-ceiling vote could be scheduled for as early as Friday, the Hill reports, as GOP leaders seek to tie their battle over government spending to the debt issue, where they have long believed to have stronger leverage over the White House.
The House maneuvering comes as the Senate planned to vote Friday on a $986.3 billion stopgap spending bill that the House approved last week. The vote would send the measure back to the lower chamber.
Still, it remains uncertain that both chambers can strike a deal before the government's funding authority expires on Tuesday.
The options become even more complicated once the Senate removes the language defunding Obamacare from the House bill that was approved 230-189 last week.
Boehner and House Republicans say they will offer other proposals before sending that measure back to the Senate, which could require another round of votes — as time runs out before a government shutdown on Oct. 1.
Further, Boehner said on Thursday that the House would not pass a “clean” spending bill — without the Obamacare language — after the Senate acts, but added that he had “no interest in seeing a government shutdown.”
“There will be options available to us, there’s not going to be any speculation about what we’re going to do or not do, until the Senate passes their bill,” the Ohio Republican said.
In the private meeting with Republicans late Thursday, Boehner presented a plan that linked spending cuts, looser regulations and a delay in Obamacare to an increase in U.S. borrowing authority.
More specifically, the proposal would seek to increase means-testing for Medicare, reduce the Medicaid provider tax, revise medical malpractice law and eliminate a public-health fund as part of the 2010 law.
In addition, Republicans want to eliminate a tax on medical devices under Obamacare and require a Social Security number to receive a child tax credit, according to the proposal.
But the Boehner plan hit stiff opposition from Reps. Paul Broun of Georgia, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, and Mo Brooks of Alabama.
“It looks like a $1 trillion increase, and it doesn’t meet the Boehner one-for-one rule,” said Huelskamp, who opposed Boehner as speaker. He said the debt-limit proposal also doesn’t balance the U.S. budget in 10 years.
As of late Thursday, Huelskamp said, “at least 18” GOP representatives would oppose Boehner's plan. Beginning Friday, Republicans will hold a 232-200 House majority, and could afford to lose no more than 15 members on a party-line vote.
In 2011, Boehner had supported a dollar-for-dollar match between spending cuts and raising the debt ceiling. Now, he’s pairing “reforms and cuts” with a debt-limit increase, expecting that any forthcoming revenue would stem from faster growth caused by lighter regulation, his critics say.
“This debt-ceiling package does not fix the underlying cause of the problem, which are the deficits,” Brooks said after the session. “We need to significantly cut government spending.”
Meanwhile, in the Senate, an effort by Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada to move up a vote on the House spending measure — the "continuing resolution" — to late Thursday was stopped by GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah.
The Senate instead will hold several votes on the resolution on Friday, which Reid has said would exclude the House Republican language denying funds for Obamacare.
GOP legislators believe they can force President Barack Obama to accept concessions in a debt-limit fight, although he has said repeatedly that he won’t negotiate, including earlier on Thursday.
“I will not negotiate on anything when it comes to the full faith and credit of the United States,” Obama told an audience at Prince George’s County Community College outside Washington. “Congress needs to put an end to governing crisis-to-crisis.”
Without congressional action on the debt limit, the government will run out of borrowing authority on Oct. 17, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said.
The government then would need to operate on a cash basis, not being able to pay its bills at some time from Oct. 22 to Oct. 31, the Congressional Budget Office said.