House Republicans are closing in on a plan to lift the federal borrowing limit for a year while addressing Medicare reimbursements and military retirement benefits in a bill that could be introduced as soon as next week.
House Speaker John Boehner promised the nation would not default as pressure mounted for action on the debt ceiling, which was reinstated Friday after being suspended last fall in a deal to end the government shutdown.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said Friday that "extraordinary measures" the federal government uses to fund the nation will not "last beyond Thursday, Feb. 27."
"At that point, Treasury would be left with only the cash on hand and any incoming revenue to meet our country’s commitments,” Lew said.
The legislation is like to include a nine-month patch to halt a planned reduction in Medicare payments to doctors, reports The Wall Street Journal
, and a reverse a planned decrease in cost-of-living adjustments for military retirees who are still of working age.
But both measures could be costly, and Republicans are planning to pay for those items by including an extra year of cuts in mandatory spending, and changes to pension contributions in the measure, reports Politico
Raising the debt ceiling until the first quarter of 2015 would push the next crisis deadline beyond the 2014 midterm elections, which could benefit both parties. But if the measure doesn't pass, Boehner will have to pass a debt limit increase that does not include policy connections.
Boehner promised Thursday that the House will raise the debt cap, reports The Christian Science Monitor
"We’re not going to default on our debt," the Ohio Republican said, noting there may even be the possibility of a "clean" bill that is free of GOP conditions.
Several lawmakers have already proposed legislative add-ons, including a mandate to build the long-discussed Keystone XL pipeline.
However, this week, House Republican leadership abandoned plans
to link an increase in the debt ceiling to concessions from Democrats which would have either insisted on the authorization of the Keystone pipeline or the repeal of Obamacare's "risk corridor provision," which gives taxpayer subsidies to insurance companies for future losses.
In addition, there are other Republicans who would flat-out refuse raising the debt limit, while some do not believe the proposed legislative add-on measures are enough.
Meanwhile, the House will be in session only until Wednesday, when it goes into recess for a week, returning on Feb. 25, just two days before the debt ceiling deadline.
The proposal plan would be in contrast to one in 2011, reports the Monitor, when lawmakers enacted more than $2.4 trillion in spending cuts over a decade, including $1 trillion in across-the-board, "sequester" budget slashes.
This time, the debt is higher, at more than $17 trillion, but the nation — and lawmakers — are being careful to avoid the tactics that brought a partial government shutdown last October.
"I do not want to get into a cataclysmic fight," Idaho Republican Rep. Raul Labrador told the Monitor.
Boehner, though, acknowledges that it will not be easy to get the Republican votes needed to pass conditions attached to a debt ceiling increase.
"Mother Teresa is a saint now, but you know, if the Congress wanted to make her a saint and attach that to the debt ceiling, we probably couldn’t get 218 Republican votes," Boehner said Thursday, referring to the number of votes the measure will need to clear the House.
And Democrats are not likely to find the Republican plan attractive, a senior Democratic aide told The Wall Street Journal.
The measure could lose support if it adds to the federal budget deficit, or if provisions are included that offset the pension or Medicare cuts, the aide said, as House Democrats emphasize they will only vote on a "clean" increase to raise the debt ceiling.
"The only reason that the speaker is adding those things is because his caucus does not want to vote to honor the full faith and credit of the United States—you know, unless they have a cookie in their lunch," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
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