GOP Plan Would Address Debt Ceiling, But Keep Government Shutdown Going
House Republicans appear to be uniting behind a new proposal that would offer a short-term, relatively “clean” increase in the debt ceiling as a means of buying time for opposing parties on Capitol Hill and at the White House to attempt to come to terms on a longer term fiscal deal:
The partisan logjam that has paralyzed the capital showed signs of easing Wednesday, as conservative Republicans warmed to the idea of a short-term increase in the country’s borrowing limit and House GOP leaders prepared for their first meeting with President Barack Obama since the government shutdown began.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, outlined a plan Wednesday to fellow conservatives to extend the nation’s borrowing limit for four to six weeks, paired with a framework for broader deficit-reduction talks, according to lawmakers briefed on the proposal. The greater the spending reduction the talks produced, the longer the next extension of the debt ceiling would be under Mr. Ryan’s plan.
Top House Republicans prepared to head to the White House Thursday to discuss the issues underlying the standoff that has resulted in the nine-day partial government shutdown and that now threatens the country’s ability to borrow.
The White House said the session isn’t a negotiation, in keeping with Mr. Obama’s demand that lawmakers raise the debt ceiling and fully reopen the government without conditions before policy talks are held. But the meeting may allow House Republicans to say they had a policy conversation with the president, which they have been saying is a condition of resolving the impasse.
Mr. Ryan’s proposal for a short-term debt-limit increase drew broad support from conservatives at the Capitol Hill meeting, according to lawmakers who attended. Republicans leaving the closed-door session expressed support for a short-term measure even if it doesn’t address the 2010 health-care law. Conservatives’ efforts to curtail the law sparked the shutdown.
“It may make more sense to avoid back-to-back financial crises,” said Rep. Kevin Brady (R., Texas), referring to the government shutdown and debt-ceiling deadline. “We may need some extra time to pull the right package together.”
There are similar reports of such a proposed deal coming this morning From The New York Times, National Journal, and The Washington Post. There are two things that are notable about these reports. First, much like Paul Ryan’s proposal, which I wrote about yesterday, it completely ignores the Obamacare issue that had set off the events we’ve been dealing with for the past three weeks or so. Indeed, Erick Erickson reported that his sources are saying that the House GOP Leadership is essentially giving up on that fight for now. Second, it appears from all reports that the plan that the GOP is looking at right now, which obviously won’t be presented either privately to Democrats or publicly unless it ends up getting endorsed by the GOP Caucus later this morning, only deals with the debt ceiling and would basically leave the government shutdown going forward as if it were an issue that would have to be discussed either separately or as a part of the longer term negotiations that this reported plan contemplates. This last point is important because, while the White House has hinted over the past 24 hours that the President would be willing to sign on to a short-term increase in the debt ceiling as long as it was “clean, it’s unclear how they’d react to a plan that focused only on the debt ceiling and allowed the government shutdown going.
Assuming Boehner and the House GOP Leadership get sufficient backing from the caucus in their meeting today, this is presumably something that will be presented to President Obama during their meeting with him late this afternoon. Originally, the White House had invited all 232 Republican Congressmen to attend this meeting, but Speaker Boehner apparently decided that only the leadership and the heads of the relevant committees (i.e., Budget and Appropriations) would be attending. While some in the media have interpreted this is some kind of a snub of the President, or an effort to control the debate, I actually think its kind of wise. To the extent that such a meeting is going to accomplish anything productive, it does no good for people like Louie Gohmert, Steve King, and Michele Bachmann, all of whom have expressed nothing but contempt for the President, to attend. If anything productive is going to come out of this today, it’s best to leave it in the hands of the adults.
As is always true with this matter, the devil is in the details. However, taken in context with yesterday’s Ryan Op-Ed, it’s clear that the GOP is doing the best it can at this point to get shake off the “defund Obamacare” albatross that Ted Cruz hung around them when this whole mess started. What’s unclear to me, though, is whether even a short term deal can happen if it doesn’t also include something to deal with the government shutdown.