House GOP Scraps Debt-Ceiling Plan

They’re going clean.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 06: U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) speaks during his weekly news conference February 6, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Speaker Boehner discussed Republican agenda with members of the media at the news conference. 
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Sarah Mimms and Elahe Izadi
Feb. 11, 2014, 4:56 a.m.

House Re­pub­lic­ans scrapped a plan they de­vised Monday night to raise the debt ceil­ing with an ad­di­tion­al meas­ure to re­verse vet­er­ans’ cuts. In­stead, they’re go­ing clean, ac­cord­ing to a source in the room. That vote will come Tues­day night, be­cause of a pos­sible snowstorm on the east coast, says a House lead­er­ship aide.

Lead­er­ship had wanted to ex­tract something out of rais­ing the debt ceil­ing and had settled on rolling back the $6 bil­lion on cost of liv­ing cuts to mil­it­ary pen­sions. But Demo­crats have long in­sisted they won’t give any­thing in re­turn for rais­ing the debt ceil­ing. The GOP plan would have re­lied on sup­port from a good num­ber of Demo­crats, since many con­ser­vat­ives will vote against rais­ing the debt ceil­ing re­gard­less of what’s at­tached.

Many House Re­pub­lic­ans had let the speak­er know of their dis­sat­is­fac­tion about the earli­er plan on Monday night.

And House Demo­crats, in­clud­ing Demo­crat­ic con­fer­ence chair­man Xavi­er Be­cerra, sug­ges­ted Monday that if Boehner was de­pend­ing on Demo­crat­ic votes to get the meas­ure through, he should not be so con­fid­ent. Demo­crats have been cling­ing to their de­mand for a debt-ceil­ing hike to be passed without any strings at­tached.

“I’m pretty boxed in,” said fresh­man Rep. Richard Hud­son, R-N.C. He said he wasn’t likely go­ing to vote for the debt-ceil­ing lift at all, but now will def­in­itely not.

“House Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers told mem­bers this morn­ing that it is clear the paid-for mil­it­ary COLA pro­vi­sion will not at­tract enough sup­port,” says a source from the room Tues­day morn­ing. The Speak­er did make clear that the new plan would have the ne­ces­sary num­ber of Re­pub­lic­an votes, but would have to be car­ried by Demo­crats.

A clean bill will force at least a few dozen Re­pub­lic­ans to join with Demo­crats in or­der to raise the debt ceil­ing, a move that could be un­pop­u­lar with con­ser­vat­ive groups and con­stitu­en­cies that have called for spend­ing cuts in ex­change for an in­crease in the na­tion’s debt lim­it. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., who is close with lead­er­ship, and oth­ers have of­ten re­ferred to these mem­bers as “sac­ri­fi­cial lambs.”

Po­ten­tially lower­ing fur­ther the num­ber of House Re­pub­lic­ans who might vote along with Demo­crats in passing a clean in­crease are plans by the con­ser­vat­ive group, Her­it­age Ac­tion for Amer­ica, to come out against the bill.

“We’re go­ing to key vote it,” said a Her­it­age spokes­man, Dan Holler, on Tues­day morn­ing. He said an an­nounce­ment would be com­ing later in the day.

With 432 of the 435 House seats now oc­cu­pied, the meas­ure will re­quire a ma­jor­ity 217 votes to pass if every­one shows up on the floor and do not simply vote “present.” There are 232 Re­pub­lic­ans and 200 Demo­crats in the House.

That could make the math in­ter­est­ing. Demo­crat­ic Whip Steny Hoy­er says more than 180 Demo­crats would vote for the debt ceil­ing in­crease, but he won’t pledge all 200.

Boehner told re­port­ers after the Tues­day morn­ing meet­ing that he ex­pec­ted the House GOP would put “a min­im­um amount of votes up to get it passed.”

“Let his party give him the debt ceil­ing [in­crease] he wants,” said Boehner, re­fer­ring to Pres­id­ent Obama. But he said some Re­pub­lic­ans will ob­vi­ously have to vote for the bill, and that he’ll be one of them.

House Demo­crats are already sound­ing off on the new, clean plan.

“That is what our po­s­i­tion has al­ways been and the speak­er has been gra­cious in his con­ver­sa­tions with us as to see what we would vote for and we told him we would vote for a clean [debt ceil­ing],” House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi said as she ex­ited the House Demo­crat­ic con­fer­ence meet­ing Tues­day morn­ing. “We think no mat­ter who the pres­id­ent is and who con­trols the con­gress, the full faith and cred­it of the United States is not ne­go­ti­able.”

House Demo­crat­ic lead­ers sent a mes­sage to their mem­bers this morn­ing that “the debt ceil­ing is clean, must be clean and that’s the only kind of vote that we would take,” said Demo­crat­ic Rep. Nita Lowey.

Demo­crats have long been against vot­ing for a debt ceil­ing in­crease with any­thing at­tached to it, and were con­cerned that do­ing so would set a dan­ger­ous pre­ced­ent.

“The Demo­crats have made it clear that they will vote for a debt ceil­ing that is clean and any at­tempt to at­tach any oth­er good­ies onto it is un­ac­cept­able,” Lowey ad­ded.

“Isn’t it pathet­ic,” an em­phat­ic Steny Hoy­er railed as he knocked the table he sat be­fore, “that the party in charge of the House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives can only get… 18 votes for mak­ing sure their na­tion pays its bills.”

On the Sen­ate side, Sen­ate Budget Chair Patty Mur­ray called the new plan “en­cour­aging,” and that she “look[s] for­ward to [the House GOP] send­ing over a debt lim­it bill with no ransom de­mands at­tached.”

Not every­one is quite as happy. The Sen­ate Con­ser­vat­ives Fund blas­ted out a re­lease Tues­day morn­ing say­ing that “John Boehner must be re­placed as Speak­er of the House.”

The new plan, in­tro­duced Tues­day with a planned vote for that night, would vi­ol­ate a GOP pledge to al­low a three-day wait­ing peri­od between a bill be­ing in­tro­duced and a vote. There is, however, a loop­hole in that pledge for passing emer­gency le­gis­la­tion. House Re­pub­lic­an aides in­sist they are not in vi­ol­a­tion of the three-day rule be­cause the lan­guage was pos­ted to Rules last night, and that they will just push for­ward with a por­tion of it.

The Treas­ury De­part­ment has said Con­gress has un­til Feb. 27 to raise the debt lim­it, and Boehner has re­peatedly vowed the na­tion will not de­fault on its ob­lig­a­tions. The Sen­ate is con­sid­er­ing a meas­ure to roll back the mil­it­ary cuts this week.

The move is a polit­ic­al win for Demo­crats, who now don’t have to go on re­cord against restor­ing vet­er­ans’ cuts, or al­tern­at­ively look hy­po­crit­ic­al for vi­ol­at­ing their “clean only” pledge. But Re­pub­lic­ans also now avoid a messy fight over the debt ceil­ing. In fact, many con­ser­vat­ives had been ask­ing lead­er­ship to put up a clean bill for weeks, since that’s how they ex­pec­ted the drama to play out. Looks like they’re get­ting their wish.

Contributions by Matt Berman and Billy House

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