WASHINGTON (AP) — House GOP leaders Tuesday floated a plan to fellow Republicans to counter an emerging Senate deal to reopen the government and forestall an economy-rattling default on U.S. obligations. But the plan got mixed reviews from the rank and file and it was not clear whether it could pass the chamber.
The measure would suspend a new tax on medical devices for two years and take away the federal government's contributions to lawmakers' health care and top administration officials. It would also fund the government through Jan. 15 and give Treasury the ability to borrow normally through Feb. 7.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he's "trying to find a path forward" but that "there have been no decisions about exactly what we will do." He told a news conference, "There are a lot of opinions about what direction to go."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., involved in negotiations with Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, blasted the House plan as a blatant attack on bipartisanship.
"It can't pass the Senate and it won't pass the Senate," Reid said.
The move came as a partial shutdown entered its third week and less than two days before the Treasury Department says it will be unable to borrow and will rely on a this cash cushion to pay the country's bills.
The House GOP plan wouldn't win nearly as many concessions from President Barack Obama as Republicans had sought but it would set up another battle with the White House early next year.
"The jury is still out," said Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas.
Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., said he was not sure he could vote for the plan because it did not address the debt. "I have to know a lot more than I know now," he said.
The House move comes after conservative lawmakers rebelled at the outlines of an emerging Senate plan by Reid and GOP leader McConnell. Those two hoped to seal an agreement on Tuesday, just two days before the Treasury Department says it will run out of borrowing capacity.
The White House and Democrats quickly came out against the Republican plan. Obama planned to meet with House Democratic leaders Tuesday afternoon as negotiations continue.
"The latest proposal from House Republicans does just that in a partisan attempt to appease a small group of tea party Republicans who forced the government shutdown in the first place," said White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage. "Democrats and Republicans in the Senate have been working in a bipartisan, good-faith effort .... With only a couple days remaining until the United States exhausts its borrowing authority, it's time for the House to do the same."
"GOP's latest plan is designed to torpedo the bipartisan Sen solution," tweeted Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. "Plan is not only reckless, it's tantamount to default."
Political pressure is building on Republicans to reopen the government and GOP leaders are clearly fearful of failing to act to avert a default on U.S. obligations.
Republicans are in a difficult spot, relinquishing many of their core demands as they take a beating in the polls. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., led GOP lawmakers in several verses of "Amazing Grace."
"We have to stick together now," said Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas.
Like the House GOP bill, the emerging Senate measure — though not finalized — would reopen the government through Jan. 15 and permit the Treasury to borrow normally until early to mid-February, easing dual crises that have sapped confidence in the economy and taken a sledgehammer to the GOP's poll numbers.
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