House GOP Abandons Tying Debt Ceiling to Keystone or Risk Corridors

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R), R-Ohio, speaks during the House Republican Leadership press conference at the House Republican Issues Conference in Cambridge, Maryland, January 30, 2014, with Majority Leader US Congressman Eric Cantor (C), R-Virginia, and Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Washington.
National Journal
Feb. 5, 2014, 6:34 a.m.

Well, it looks like House Re­pub­lic­ans are back to the draw­ing board over what to do about the debt lim­it.

House Lead­er­ship has pulled the plug on pro­pos­als that would tie rais­ing the debt ceil­ing to ap­prov­al of the Key­stone XL pipeline or elim­in­at­ing the so-called risk cor­ridors in the Af­ford­able Care Act, be­cause neither plan could reach 218 votes, ac­cord­ing to a House aide with know­ledge of the talks. 

The debt lim­it has been sus­pen­ded through Feb. 7, and the Treas­ury De­part­ment es­tim­ates it can take enough ex­traordin­ary meas­ures to last through the end of the month be­fore risk­ing de­fault.

Re­pub­lic­ans may seek oth­er pri­or­it­ies in ex­change for rais­ing the debt lim­it, but no clear strategy has emerged.

A num­ber of Re­pub­lic­ans have an­ti­cip­ated that the House will even­tu­ally vote on a clean debt-ceil­ing in­crease. Even con­ser­vat­ives such as Rep. Raul Lab­rador of Idaho are say­ing that’s the path for­ward. “I ac­tu­ally think we should just do a clean debt ceil­ing,” he told re­port­ers this week. “Give the Demo­crats their vote. We don’t have to vote for it.”

An­oth­er con­ser­vat­ive, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, echoed that sen­ti­ment: “I think at the end of the day we’re ba­sic­ally go­ing to have something equi­val­ent to a clean debt ceil­ing in­crease,” he said Tues­day. “I wish they would do something sub­stant­ive, but they’re not go­ing to, so let’s just avoid the theat­er and get on with it.”

The risk cor­ridor pro­vi­sion of the Af­ford­able Care Act would par­tially re­im­burse in­sur­ance com­pan­ies for people who wind up cost­ing in­surers more than they paid in premi­ums by over 3 per­cent. The pro­gram is only in place for three years, be­gin­ning with this year.

On Tues­day, the Con­gres­sion­al Budget Of­fice found that the pro­gram would save the gov­ern­ment about $8 bil­lion.

Matt Berman and Sarah Mimms contributed to this article.
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