Boehner Pushes Last-Ditch Effort, But Conservatives Aren’t Sold

White House dismisses Republican offer that would add policy provisions to the Senate’s deal as deadline looms.

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 15: Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) departs a press followiong a meeting of House Republicans at the U.S. Capitol October 15, 2013 in Washington, DC. The U.S. government shutdown is entering its fifteenth day as the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives remain gridlocked on funding the federal government. 
National Journal
Billy House and Tim Alberta
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Billy House Tim Alberta
Oct. 15, 2013, 8:39 a.m.

House Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers on Tues­day morn­ing presen­ted their latest pro­pos­al to raise the debt ceil­ing and re­open the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, a last-ditch ef­fort from Speak­er John Boehner to pass something out of the House and avoid get­ting jammed by a Sen­ate deal that is already be­ing dis­missed by con­ser­vat­ives in the lower cham­ber.

But in a fa­mil­i­ar twist, Boehner’s pro­pos­al — which tacks sev­er­al minor policy pro­vi­sions onto the Sen­ate frame­work — may not sat­is­fy a suf­fi­cient num­ber of con­ser­vat­ives to pass when it comes up for a vote Tues­day night.

“We’re still talk­ing, and we’ll see,” said Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, a lead­ing con­ser­vat­ive who has en­thu­si­ast­ic­ally sup­por­ted Boehner at every turn un­til now.

The plan out­lined by lead­er­ship at Tues­day’s closed-door GOP con­fer­ence meet­ing builds on the Sen­ate frame­work, which funds the gov­ern­ment through Jan. 15 and ex­tends the na­tion’s bor­row­ing lim­it through Feb. 7. In ad­di­tion, House Re­pub­lic­ans are ask­ing for a two-year delay of the med­ic­al device tax, and lan­guage that will ban gov­ern­ment health care sub­sidies for mem­bers of Con­gress as well as mem­bers of the pres­id­ent’s cab­in­et.

But that fi­nal pro­vi­sion seemed in­ad­equate to some con­ser­vat­ives, who have ar­gued for the sub­sidy ban to ex­tend to a broad­er swath of fed­er­al em­ploy­ees, in­clud­ing staffers on Cap­it­ol Hill. “It’s a mat­ter of provid­ing fair­ness for all Amer­ic­ans,” Rep. Tom Graves of Geor­gia said fol­low­ing the meet­ing.

As to the plan that had been out­lined, Graves said, “That’s a work­ing doc­u­ment. It’s not the fi­nal product.”

Boehner seemed to echo that sen­ti­ment in a post-meet­ing news con­fer­ence. “There are a lot of opin­ions about what dir­ec­tion to go.” Boehner said. “There have been no de­cisions about what ex­actly we will do.”

Yet, des­pite a lack of con­sensus with­in his con­fer­ence, Boehner ac­know­ledged there is an ur­gent need to fi­nal­ize lan­guage and move for­ward with a vote on Tues­day. “We’re talk­ing with our mem­bers on both sides of the aisle to try to find a way to move for­ward — today,” he said

Still, even as Boehner and his lead­er­ship team at­tempt to cobble to­geth­er a bill cap­able of win­ning con­ser­vat­ive sup­port and passing the lower cham­ber, Pres­id­ent Obama and Demo­crat­ic con­gres­sion­al lead­ers are prom­ising that it won’t go any­where.

“We felt blind­sided by the news from the House,” Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id said on the Sen­ate floor shortly after the House meet­ing ad­journed. “Let’s be clear: The House le­gis­la­tion will not pass the Sen­ate.”

Boehner’s of­fice re­acted swiftly to Re­id’s re­marks on the Sen­ate floor. “Is Sen­at­or Re­id so blinded by par­tis­an­ship that he is will­ing to risk de­fault on our debt to pro­tect a ‘pace­maker tax’ that 34 Sen­ate Demo­crats are on the re­cord op­pos­ing, and he him­self called ‘stu­pid’?” said Boehner spokes­per­son Mi­chael Steel.

Mean­while, the White House sched­uled a mid-af­ter­noon meet­ing with House Demo­crat­ic lead­ers to mo­bil­ize against the Re­pub­lic­an pro­pos­al. With a mul­ti­tude of House Re­pub­lic­an de­fec­tions pos­sible at to­night’s vote, the White House wants to make sure that Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi min­im­izes the num­ber of Demo­crats who could help Boehner pass his bill.

The House pro­pos­al, White House spokes­per­son Amy Brundage said, rep­res­ents “a par­tis­an at­tempt to ap­pease a small group of Tea Party Re­pub­lic­ans.”

The ma­jor­ity of those law­makers, however, are re­main­ing non­com­mit­tal un­til they see spe­cif­ics from the Rules Com­mit­tee, which is con­ven­ing Tues­day af­ter­noon to iron out the pre­cise lan­guage of the le­gis­la­tion.

Some Re­pub­lic­ans, however, have already made up their mind.

“I’m a ‘no,’” said Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, who, des­pite be­ing a long­time thorn in Boehner’s side, has largely fol­lowed lead­er­ship’s strategy in re­cent weeks. “But they’ll prob­ably get their 218” votes, Gohmert ad­ded.

Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, a lead­ing GOP mod­er­ate, praised Boehner’s pro­pos­al as a po­ten­tial swift path to a deal in time to meet Thursday’s dead­line for when the na­tion is ex­pec­ted to hit its bor­row­ing lim­its.

“I think it does move the ball for­ward,” Dent said. He de­scribed the plan as less a com­pet­ing meas­ure to one be­ing worked out by Sen­ate Demo­crat­ic and Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers — but rather, a plan that is quite sim­il­ar.

“It will set up what will be ob­vi­ously a re­con­cili­ation between what the House has on the table and what the Sen­ate has offered,” Dent said.

In­deed the plan presen­ted Tues­day morn­ing by Boehner to rank-and-file Re­pub­lic­ans be­hind closed doors is sim­il­ar in many ways to what is known about Sen­ate bi­par­tis­an plan. The Sen­ate meas­ure it­self ap­pears to be a re­flec­tion of much of what was floated as a com­prom­ise late last week and over the week­end by Sens. Susan Collins, Joe Manchin, and a group of about 10 oth­ers sen­at­ors.

But there are im­port­ant dif­fer­ences. In ad­di­tion to the med­ic­al device tax delay, the House bill would also elim­in­ate a pro­vi­sion gran­ted to uni­ons in the Sen­ate bill that would delay a tax on re­in­sur­ance that labor says would fall heav­ily on its mem­bers. The House plan also would have a pro­vi­sion re­quir­ing in­come veri­fic­a­tion for Obama­care sub­sidies, and would end the Treas­ury De­part­ment’s abil­ity to ex­haust “ex­traordin­ary meas­ures” when the debt lim­it is ap­proached, mean­ing the Feb. 7 debt ceil­ing date would be in­flex­ible.

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