House Republicans Move Toward Debt-Ceiling Vote

Repealing a cut to veterans' pensions is the latest sweetener GOP leaders offer their members

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Alex Wong / Getty Images

House Speaker John Boehner is trying to find a debt-ceiling package his Republican conference will support

The House could vote as early as Wednesday on legislation to raise the country’s borrowing limit, after Republicans met on Monday night in their latest effort to find elusive consensus on one of the final must-pass objectives before Washington goes into election mode.

During a meeting in the basement of the Capitol, GOP leaders floated the idea of repealing a cut to veterans’ pensions set to take place next year and attach that to a bill that would raise the debt ceiling for one year. It remains to be seen if a majority of the restive conservative conference will back party leadership, or if House Speaker John Boehner will be left to rely on Democrats to take action before what the Obama Administration has pegged as a critical Feb. 27 deadline. Representative Kevin Brady, a Republican from Texas, told TIME that the measure would be paid for by extending a 2% cut in payments to Medicare providers for one more year, until 2024.

But the initial response among members was lukewarm. “I’m giving it some thought,” Brady says. “We have to pay our bills on time and in full [but] I’m worried that we’re not solving the military retirement problem for the long term.” Several members remained unsure how the increase in pension spending would be offset.

Democrats have repeatedly said they could only support a “clean” debt-limit increase, without strings attached. Financial markets, accustomed to congressional brinkmanship over the debt ceiling, have stayed calm, even though Congress blew past its self-imposed Friday deadline for resolving the issue. The Treasury Department will continue to use “extraordinary measures” to pay the country’s bills through 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,” Treasury Secretary Jack Lew wrote to Boehner last week.

The Senate on Monday unanimously cleared a procedural hurdle for a bill that would repeal the veterans’ pension cut without offsetting the increase in spending. Several vulnerable Democrats up for re-election supported the measure, signaling a willingness in the upper chamber for repeal — if not necessarily as a condition of raising the debt limit.

After years of fierce partisan fiscal battles that have led the country to the brink of default, Congress’s debt-ceiling fight has this year become almost entirely a fight within the Republican Party. House GOP leadership has bounced around ideas that could be attached to an increase to garner conservatives’ support — from repealing an obscure health-care-law provision or approving the Keystone XL pipeline, to tweaking the Medicare reimbursement structure and now repealing the veterans’ pension cut — but so far to no avail. While the latest proposal may yet gain momentum, it’s low-hanging fruit that puts members in the unenviable position of being forced to vote for an increase or against higher military pensions, and a far cry from more recent conservative goals like defending the health-care-reform law. After months of Republican wrangling, Democrats united behind a no-strings-attached approach to raising the debt ceiling increasingly appear to have the upper hand. Boehner has made clear he won’t allow a debt default.

11 comments
BruceS78
BruceS78

Republicans fight a lot of battles that make them look dumb and stupid to Independent voters.  They don't seem to realize that a fight over the debt ceiling will make them look dumb and stupid again.  They would be better off passing a debt ceiling increase and then getting on with whatever election strategy they have.  A fight over the debt ceiling might help them with their conservative base in the primary, but it doesn't help in the general election.

MrObvious
MrObvious

Negotiate bills, pay them when they come due (like now). It's not that hard,

jsfox
jsfox

This just in! Boehner is bringing a clean debt ceiling vote to the floor. 

ARTRaveler
ARTRaveler

The Senate passed a bill yesterday to restore the cuts,  Just sign on to that one.  Why do Republicans feel they always must re-invent the wheel.  With the current right-wing thinking, we will know that it is a Republican product by the 5 sides to the wheel.

roknsteve
roknsteve

Republicans:  "Let's ( Obamacare ) vote ( hostage ) on ( pork ) the ( riders ) debt ceiling.  Republicans couldn't draw ants to a picnic. 

yodadog
yodadog

The Treasury Department will continue to use “extraordinary measures” to pay the country’s bills through 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,” 


Gee-I believe that's called living within your means...



ZacPetit
ZacPetit

@yodadog  Okay, I'll bite. Here is an analogy for you:

You and your significant other own a house. The mortgage is due every month, equal to $2,000. This year, you can only afford payments of $1,800, but you pay each bill in full. When the end of October approaches, you know you won't have enough money to pay your mortgage for November. You know you will need to take out a loan to cover the difference, but your significant other won't have it. They insist that you get new siding on the house done (offset by selling your motorcycle) before you take out the loan. "We need to live responsibly," they say, "and doing so means taking care of the house. Look at how bad it looks!" You scratch your head as you wonder how you're going to pay the mortgage on time.

jsfox
jsfox

@yodadog  What is about some people and their inability to understand the debt ceiling? The debt ceiling has nothing to do with living within your means. It has to do with paying the bill you have already run up.

yodadog
yodadog


@jsfox @yodadog @jsfox What you're not understanding by buying into the govs twisted logic @jsfox is if your spending does not exceed your income, you don't have to borrow to pay your bills. No debit=no debt ceiling.