House Republicans Expect to Approve Short-Term Debt Deal

Conservatives appear ready to accept a debt deal as a first step to getting Democrats to move on long-term fiscal issues.

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 01: House Ways and Means Committee members U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (R) and U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) visit before a committee hearing in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill August 1, 2013 in Washington, DC. During a hearing titled, 'The Status of the Affordable Care Act Implementation,' the committee questioned representatives from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Internal Revenue Service responsible for implimenting the ACA. 
National Journal
Tim Alberta
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Tim Alberta
Oct. 9, 2013, 1:14 p.m.

House Re­pub­lic­ans re­main com­mit­ted to for­cing ne­go­ti­ations with Pres­id­ent Obama and Sen­ate Demo­crats over a range of long-term fisc­al is­sues, in­clud­ing the debt-ceil­ing and budget de­fi­cit. But they also are be­gin­ning to ac­cept that for such talks to take place, they must first ap­prove a short-term debt lim­it in­crease.

On Wed­nes­day, Re­pub­lic­ans soun­ded pre­pared to do pre­cisely that.

In in­ter­views with nu­mer­ous GOP law­makers, mem­bers spoke with con­fid­ence — and ac­cept­ance — of the fact that the House will soon ap­prove a short-term deal to raise the debt-ceil­ing and force Demo­crats to the ne­go­ti­at­ing table.

De­tails are still be­ing ironed out, House Re­pub­lic­ans said, but they are on track to ap­prove a debt-lim­it ex­ten­sion — last­ing between four and six weeks — that would es­tab­lish a frame­work for sub­sequent fisc­al ne­go­ti­ations. Law­makers said this short-term deal, which Pres­id­ent Obama has prom­ised would com­pel him to join com­pre­hens­ive talks over long-term fisc­al is­sues, could pass as soon as Fri­day.

“We aren’t go­ing to solve the long-term chal­lenges in a week,” said Rep. Tom Price of Geor­gia. “So if there’s a solu­tion to this … it’s a ne­go­ti­ated agree­ment to have a short-term debt-lim­it ex­ten­sion that gives the time to be able to solve the long-term chal­lenges.”

The par­tic­u­lars of this short-term pro­pos­al are in flux, as there are on­go­ing dis­cus­sions with­in the con­fer­ence re­gard­ing which pro­vi­sions — if any — should be at­tached. Some mem­bers are push­ing for com­men­sur­ate spend­ing cuts, though such a fig­ure could be dif­fi­cult to cal­cu­late. Oth­ers are ad­voc­at­ing the in­clu­sion of one, or mul­tiple, mini-fund­ing bills that have been passed through the House. A clutch of con­ser­vat­ives, mean­while, are ask­ing for lan­guage that would pri­or­it­ize Treas­ury pay­ments.

“We’d prefer a long-term deal,” said Rep. Steve Scal­ise, chair­man of the Re­pub­lic­an Study Com­mit­tee. “But if we need to do something short-term, we should have the cor­res­pond­ing re­forms.”

Still, with the debt-ceil­ing dead­line loom­ing next week, and mar­kets war­ily watch­ing Con­gress’s every move, some GOP law­makers are against at­tach­ing any­thing “ob­jec­tion­able” for fear the Sen­ate would re­ject it. In fact, some con­ser­vat­ives are quietly whip­ping sup­port for something be­ing called the “four-plus-four” plan, which would sim­ul­tan­eously pass “clean” four-week ver­sions of a con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion and debt-lim­it in­crease. The pro­pos­al, which would es­tab­lish bind­ing guidelines for talks between House Re­pub­lic­ans and the White House and Sen­ate Demo­crats, is in­triguing to some Re­pub­lic­an law­makers.

“If it was a month-long, and it held the pres­id­ent’s feet to the fire to ne­go­ti­ate, I think that’s something people would be will­ing to take a look at,” said Rep. Matt Sal­mon of Ari­zona.

But this pro­pos­al — which is also at­tract­ive to some mem­bers be­cause it would also re­open the gov­ern­ment — stands little chance of gain­ing ma­jor­ity sup­port among Re­pub­lic­ans, many of whom re­fuse to pass any clean debt-ceil­ing in­crease be­cause of the pre­ced­ent it would set. Sev­er­al con­ser­vat­ive mem­bers, speak­ing on con­di­tion of an­onym­ity so as not to of­fend their col­leagues, flat-out dis­missed the idea.

“That’s nev­er gonna hap­pen,” said one GOP law­maker.

Speak­er John Boehner and his lead­er­ship team have been meet­ing this week with rank-and-file mem­bers to build con­sensus and keep every­one on the same page. One of those mem­bers, speak­ing on con­di­tion of an­onym­ity to talk can­didly about the strategy of the con­fer­ence, said the short-term ex­ten­sion has emerged as the “clear front-run­ner” and said he’s hop­ing for a vote by week’s end.

The hang-up, he said, is de­cid­ing ex­actly how long the ex­ten­sion should last — and which pro­vi­sions could be in­cluded without start­ing an­oth­er ping-pong match with the Sen­ate.

Seni­or Re­pub­lic­an aides cau­tioned that noth­ing has been settled ahead of GOP lead­er­ship’s vis­it to the White House on Thursday. But with the Oct. 17 dead­line draw­ing close, and Obama already rul­ing out ne­go­ti­ations with Re­pub­lic­ans pri­or to the pas­sage of a debt-lim­it ex­ten­sion, some kind of short-term deal ap­pears to be a fore­gone con­clu­sion — even if the de­tails are far from fi­nal­ized.

If Obama won’t ne­go­ti­ate un­til after the debt-ceil­ing is raised, “then it’s our re­spons­ib­il­ity to make sure that we don’t de­fault,” said Rep. Tim Wal­berg of Michigan. “And I think we’re up to that.”

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