House Republicans mulled a plan to shift the fight over funding President Obama's healthcare law from a government shutdown to raising the U.S. debt ceiling.
GOP leaders plan to present the idea to rank-and-file lawmakers Thursday morning after meeting for nearly 90 minutes about the strategy Wednesday, The Washington Post said.
The idea would be to attach a provision to defund the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, to a bill to raise the federal debt limit, the Post said.
This would clear the way for the House to approve a simple measure to keep the government open into the new fiscal year, which begins Tuesday. But it would set the stage for a potentially bigger fight by linking the defunding measure to raising the debt ceiling, the Post said.
If the idea wins approval, the GOP leaders hope to introduce the new debt-limit bill later Thursday and hold a vote as soon as Saturday, the newspaper said.
Obama administration officials immediately dismissed the idea, vowing no delays in the insurance initiative, which is to start enrolling consumers Tuesday.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned Congress in a letter Wednesday he will run out of emergency borrowing measures "no later than Oct. 17."
He urged all members of Congress to take immediate action to raise the federal debt limit, which stands at $16.7 trillion.
Without the additional borrowing authority, the government's cash on hand "would be far short of net expenditures on certain days, which can be as high as $60 billion," while the Treasury would have less than $30 billion, he said.
The House strategy was put together as Senate Democrats advanced a House-passed stopgap spending bill that would fund the federal government from Tuesday to Dec. 15.
The measure, as written, defunds Obamacare. But Senate rules allow Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to strip out the anti-Obamacare provisions. He can also change the expiration date on the funding bill to Nov. 15 and pass the measure with a simple majority achieved entirely with Democratic votes.
The Senate is expected to approve the bill Saturday.
That would give House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, less than 48 hours to pass the Senate version or respond with add-ons.
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