News Column

GOP Leaders Meet on Debt Limit

September 12, 2013

Legal Monitor Worldwide

finance legislation spending bill

House Republican leaders are struggling to avoid a U.S. government shutdown at month's end after delaying a vote on a spending plan opposed by dozens of their caucus members.

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia couldn't win enough support this week for a 2014 spending plan that also would force the Democratic-led Senate to vote on defunding President Barack Obama's health-care law. At least two dozen Tea Party-backed House Republicans balked because the budget proposal would still allow financing for the health-care measure.

The top four congressional leaders will meet today to discuss financing the government after funding runs out Sept. 30 and raising the U.S. debt ceiling, which could be reached by mid-October. House Republican leaders are trying to avert a government shutdown while satisfying caucus members who are willing to risk a financial crisis to sidetrack the health-care measure passed during Obama's first term.

The spending bill "is going to have to change," Representative Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican, told reporters yesterday. He said he is among 50 to 80 Republicans who want to stop funding for the Affordable Care Act and oppose their leaders' plan.

Neither chamber has acted on legislation to finance the government for the 2014 fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.

Boehner and Cantor proposed a plan that would require the Senate to vote on defunding the health-care law before the House would send over a $986.3 billion short-term spending measure.

Republican Objections

House Republican opponents of the plan objected because the strategy would allow a spending bill to be enacted even if the Senate voted to keep funds for Obama's health law.

Boehner is scheduled to meet today on the fiscal issues with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.

Some House Republicans are pushing their leaders to guarantee a fight over raising the debt limit as a condition of their support for the spending measure, according to Representative Dennis Ross of Florida.

The Republican Study Committee, a group of lawmakers that promotes small government, yesterday discussed demanding a one-year delay in the health-care law in exchange for an increase in the debt limit. Ross said the postponement would produce savings that could be used to cancel some of the automatic budget cuts that started in March.

Democratic Opposition

Boehner and Cantor need the bulk of their fellow Republicans to support their spending plan because Democrats oppose their spending plan. Second-ranking House Democrat Steny Hoyer of Maryland said this week he was urging colleagues not to vote for it.

"The American people are witnessing yet another sign that Republicans can't get their own act together, even when a government shutdown hangs in the balance," Pelosi said in a statement yesterday.

Republican leaders don't intend to submit a different spending plan, according to a Republican leadership aide who wasn't authorized to speak publicly.

"We've got some time left here and conversations are taking place," Representative Hal Rogers of Kentucky, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, told reporters yesterday. "It's not time to panic."

The House and Senate are scheduled to be in session at the same time just six days during the rest of September.

A Senate Democratic aide said leaders in the chamber's majority party plan to tell Republicans today that they won't accept added conditions to either the spending bill or the measure increasing the U.S. debt limit. The aide requested anonymity in discussing the negotiations.

Boehner's Goal

Boehner said earlier this week his goal was to "cut spending and to stop Obamacare," not to shut down the government.

The House has voted 40 times to repeal, delay or defund all or part of the health-care law. The Senate has refused to take up almost all of those measures. The 2010 health-care law, upheld last year by the U.S. Supreme Court, is designed to expand coverage to at least 30 million people.

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Original headline: Leaders Meet on Debt Limit as House Delays Spending Bill

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Source: (c) 2013 Legal Monitor Worldwide. All Rights Reserved.

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