GOP to Colleagues: Increase Debt Limit or Harry Reid Will Do Worse

House Republicans are trying to scare their members into voting for a debt-ceiling increase.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) speaks to the media during a news conference on Capitol Hill, September 19, 2013 in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Sarah Mimms
Feb. 5, 2014, 1:04 p.m.

Wor­ried that they don’t yet have the 218 votes to pass a debt-ceil­ing in­crease with­in their caucus alone, House Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers are try­ing a new tac­tic to get their mem­bers on board: fear. But that fear may be mis­placed.

After meet­ing with mem­bers, lead­er­ship has learned it does not have suf­fi­cient Re­pub­lic­an votes to pass a debt-ceil­ing in­crease with either the Key­stone pipeline or changes to the Af­ford­able Care Act’s risk cor­ridors at­tached. Earli­er this week, those were the two most com­mon meas­ures cited by House Re­pub­lic­ans as po­ten­tial off­sets for in­creas­ing the debt lim­it. But a Con­gres­sion­al Budget Of­fice re­port show­ing that the health care pro­vi­sion will ac­tu­ally re­duce the de­fi­cit on its own if left in place, and mem­bers’ feel­ings that they will likely get Key­stone any­way and should ask for more with­in the con­text of the debt fight, have re­duced sup­port for both pro­vi­sions.

See­ing a tick­ing clock on the wall — Treas­ury Sec­ret­ary Jac­ob Lew warns that the debt lim­it must be lif­ted by the end of the month, at the very latest, to avoid de­fault — House lead­er­ship and a num­ber of Re­pub­lic­an mem­bers have pushed the idea in re­cent meet­ings that if they don’t act on the debt ceil­ing soon, Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id will. And, they warn, he’ll at­tach an ex­ten­sion of un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance be­ne­fits, guar­an­teed to gain trac­tion with Demo­crats in both cham­bers, but also guar­an­teed to cause heart pal­pit­a­tions among Re­pub­lic­ans be­cause it may not be paid for.

“We have to re­cog­nize that we’re not the only people who can play of­fense,” said Rep. Tom Cole of Ok­lahoma, who is close to House lead­er­ship, on Wed­nes­day. “If the Sen­ate wants to start mov­ing, it could. And far bet­ter for us to have the ini­ti­at­ive, so to speak, than be sit­ting here re­act­ing to whatever the Sen­ate sends over.”

That fear could get more Re­pub­lic­ans on board with a debt-ceil­ing agree­ment — per­haps even a clean in­crease — but the threat ap­pears to be an empty one.

Re­id likely doesn’t have the votes for an un­em­ploy­ment-in­sur­ance ex­ten­sion to be­gin with. And the Sen­ate is already sched­uled to take up a three-month fix on Thursday.

Sen­ate Demo­crats are not dis­cuss­ing such a debt-ceil­ing plan with any­one, ac­cord­ing to a seni­or Demo­crat­ic aide. And they would look hy­po­crit­ic­al try­ing to do so, after spend­ing the past sev­er­al weeks call­ing for a com­pletely clean in­crease in the na­tion’s debt lim­it.

House Re­pub­lic­ans are still un­com­fort­able with the concept of a clean debt-ceil­ing in­crease. While hard-line con­ser­vat­ives, con­vinced that they won’t get what they want from lead­er­ship any­way, are push­ing for a clean in­crease just to end the battle, lead­er­ship is wor­ried about the idea of for­cing dozens of GOP mem­bers in­to the vul­ner­able po­s­i­tion of hav­ing to join Demo­crats on the vote.

“The very people that are re­com­mend­ing that would be the first people to con­demn the folks that vote for it.”¦ When you re­com­mend a clean vote with no ef­fort, you’re just ba­sic­ally say­ing, ‘But 20 or 30 of you guys can go off and get beaten to death, and we don’t really care wheth­er you do or not,’ ” Cole said.

House lead­ers haven’t yet giv­en up on get­ting to 218 with Re­pub­lic­ans alone, however. And they’re con­sid­er­ing a dizzy­ing num­ber of pro­vi­sions to at­tach to the debt-lim­it in­crease to get there.

The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ports that mem­bers are look­ing at a plan that would tie a fix for cuts to mil­it­ary pen­sions in a lar­ger debt-ceil­ing pack­age. The cuts, which were part of Decem­ber’s budget agree­ment, face ma­jor op­pos­i­tion on both sides of the aisle and a fix could at­tract suf­fi­cient votes in both cham­bers. But Re­pub­lic­ans want any fix to be paid for.

That also rep­res­ents a slap in the face to House Budget Chair­man Paul Ry­an who cham­pioned the COLA cuts in the budget ne­go­ti­ations late last year.

An­oth­er op­tion would be an ex­ten­sion of the “doc fix” for­mula that re­im­burses phys­i­cians un­der Medi­care. The fix also has strong bi­par­tis­an sup­port and could be help­ful in bring­ing mem­bers of both cham­bers on board. A three-month fix was in­cluded in the budget deal that passed Con­gress in Decem­ber, while mem­bers con­tin­ue to haggle over a longer-term solu­tion.

Neither op­tion, however, would re­duce the im­pact of rais­ing the debt ceil­ing. And neither comes close to the “Boehner rule,” hatched in 2011, which man­dates that any in­crease in the debt lim­it be off­set by sim­il­ar spend­ing cuts. That in­form­al rule re­mains pop­u­lar among House Re­pub­lic­an mem­bers.

“I think there are things that could be in place there that would make a large bi­par­tis­an vote likely. But they’re not the kind of things I’d prefer. I’d prefer to do something that ac­tu­ally lowers the debt or lowers the de­fi­cit,” Cole said. “But I don’t think that’s go­ing to be pos­sible.” 

What We're Following See More »
SHARES THEIR LOVE STORY
Bill Clinton Gets Personal in Convention Speech
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

“In the spring of 1971, I met a girl,” started Bill Clinton. In his speech Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention, Clinton brought a personal touch, telling parallel stories of his relationship with Hillary Clinton and the work she has done throughout her career. He lauded the Democratic nominee for her career of work, touching on her earliest days of advocacy for children and those with disabilities while in law school, her role as Secretary of State, and her work in raising their daughter, Chelsea. Providing a number of anecdotes throughout the speech, Clinton built to a crescendo, imploring the audience to support his wife for president. "You should elect her, she'll never quit when the going gets tough," he said. "Your children and grandchildren will be grateful."

LOUD “BLACK LIVES MATTER” CHANTS RING OUT
Mothers Of The Movement Endorse Hillary Clinton
11 hours ago
THE DETAILS

A coalition of mothers whose children lost their lives in high profile cases across the country, known as the Mothers Of The Movement, were greeted with deafening chants of "Black Lives Matter" before telling their stories. The mothers of Sandra Bland, Jordan Davis, and Trayvon Martin spoke for the group, soliciting both tears and applause from the crowd. "Hillary Clinton has the compassion and understanding to comfort a grieving mother," said Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin. "And that's why, in the memory of our children, we are imploring you — all of you — to vote this election day."

SOUTH DAKOTA GIVES HER CLINCHING DELEGATES
Clinton Officially Democratic Nominee for President
13 hours ago
THE DETAILS

With the South Dakota delegation announcing its delegate count, Hillary Rodham Clinton is officially the Democratic nominee for president, surpassing the 2383 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. Clinton is expected to speak at the convention on Thursday night and officially accept the nomination.

THE QUESTION
How Many People Protested in Philly Yesterday?
17 hours ago
THE ANSWER

About 5,500, according to official estimates. "The Monday figures marked a large increase from the protests at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where even the largest protests only drew a couple of hundred demonstrators. But it’s a far cry from the 35,000 to 50,000 that Philadelphia city officials initially expected."

Source:
NO BATTLEGROUND STATES LEAN TRUMP
NY Times’ Upshot Gives Clinton 68% Chance to Win
17 hours ago
THE LATEST

Only a day after FiveThirtyEight's Now Cast gave Donald Trump a 57% chance of winning, the New York Times' Upshot fires back with its own analysis that shows Hillary Clinton with a 68% chance to be the next president. Its model "calculates win probabilities for each state," which incorporate recent polls plus "a state's past election results and national polling." Notably, all of the battleground states that "vote like the country as a whole" either lean toward Clinton or are toss-ups. None lean toward Trump.

Source:
×