House Republicans are nearing a decision on whether to force a political standoff over the debt ceiling in a bid to win approval for the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned Congress on Monday that the nation’s borrowing limit could be exhausted as early as the end of the month, a signal that lawmakers will soon need to raise the debt limit to prevent default.
But a debt-ceiling vote won’t come easy.
The Washington Post reports that House leadership is planning to make any vote to increase federal borrowing authority contingent on approval of the Keystone XL pipeline to the Gulf Coast, or repeal of a provision of the president’s signature health care law.
The provision of the Affordable Care Act that’s at stake would mitigate financial risk for health insurance operators in the first three years they operate on the law’s new health care exchanges.
House leadership has not yet decided which route to take. A meeting of lower-chamber conservatives at the Capitol on Tuesday is likely to shed light on which alternative will attract more support.
Congressional Republicans have long considered the possibility of forcing a vote to approve the pipeline, a project whose profile was raised at the end of last week when a State Department finding concluded that the pipeline probably would not have any major bearing on the rate of Canadian oil sands development.
Still, the political gambit isn’t likely to win over all members of the party.
Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, shied away from the idea of linking the debt limit to a vote on Keystone XL.
“Keystone ought to be approved on its own merits; it doesn’t need to be tied to the debt ceiling,” Scalise told The Washington Post. “I don’t think that would be enough for a lot of RSC members to support. I’d like to see a repeal of the bailouts for the insurance companies. That’s becoming a real strong prospect; it’d be good to put it on the table.”
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"American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers." The conversations centered around Paul Manafort, who was campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, former national security adviser and then a close campaign surrogate. Both men have been tied heavily with Russia and Flynn is currently at the center of the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."
Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) will subpoena two businesses owned by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Burr said, "We would like to hear from General Flynn. We'd like to see his documents. We'd like him to tell his story because he publicly said he had a story to tell."