House Bristles at Senate Compromise As Time Ticks On Debt Ceiling

New plan from Republicans to reopen government and lift debt limit

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Evan Vucci / Associated Press

Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, listens to a question during a news conference after a House GOP meeting on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013 in Washington.

House Republicans on Tuesday balked at a Senate compromise to reopen the government and lift the debt ceiling, and said they would instead vote on a more conservative version of the Senate plan.

“We are preparing a bill similar to the Senate compromise that we believe is more on-point and acceptable to the senators and the White House,” said California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Like the Senate package, the House plan, which could see a vote as soon as Tuesday, would provide government funding until mid-January, extend the nation’s borrowing authority until Feb. 7 and form a bicameral budget conference for the two chambers to hash out broader fiscal reforms.

But House Republicans will also attach a number of provisions that would make more significant changes to President Barack Obama‘s health care reform law, something the White House and Senate Democrats have said is a non-starter. The Republicans want to include a two-year delay of the medical device tax in the Affordable Care Act and an amendment that would prohibit health-insurance subsidies for government officials, including the president, vice president, members of the Cabinet and lawmakers, according to House Republican aides familiar with the proposal. The proposal may also include instructions barring the Treasury Department from using accounting maneuvers to postpone the next debt-limit deadline.

“We’re talking with our members on both sides of the aisle to find a way to move forward today,” House Speaker John Boehner told reporters. “I have made clear for months and months that the idea of default is wrong and we shouldn’t get anywhere close to it.”

The move by House Republicans comes after members bristled at having their role in the negotiations superseded by Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, who stepped in over the weekend to steer Congress toward a bipartisan deal as the minutes ticked toward the Thursday deadline to lift the debt ceiling. Unwilling to be sidelined and desperate to put its stamp on the bill, the House will try once again to volley another proposal to the Senate. But it is almost certain to be rejected by the upper chamber, where both parties have grown weary of House leadership’s inability or unwillingness to control a restive Tea Party faction that has repeatedly insisted on policies that are dead-on-arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

The White House, which broke off negotiations with the House last Friday, blasted the House for the move.

“The President has said repeatedly that Members of Congress don’t get to demand ransom for fulfilling their basic responsibilities to pass a budget and pay the nation’s bills. Unfortunately, the latest proposal from House Republicans does just that in a partisan attempt to appease a small group of Tea Party Republicans who forced the government shutdown in the first place,” said Amy Brundage, a White House spokeswoman. “Democrats and Republicans in the Senate have been working in a bipartisan, good-faith effort to end the manufactured crises that have already harmed American families and business owners.  With only a couple days remaining until the United States exhausts its borrowing authority, it’s time for the House to do the same.”

Obama is scheduled to meet with House Democratic leaders on Tuesday afternoon.

House Republicans unveiled the proposal at a Tuesday morning meeting, which opened with Florida Rep. Steve Southerland singing a rendition of “Amazing Grace.” As they trickled out of the meeting in the basement of the Capitol, some members voiced the same concerns about lifting the debt limit that have marked the negotiations and nudged the U.S. to the brink of what could be an economically catastrophic debt default.

“If you don’t draw the line in the sand now, you never will,” North Carolina Republican Rep. Walter Jones said.

It is unclear whether even the new House proposal has the votes to squeak through the chamber with two days to go before the Thursday debt-ceiling deadline determined by the Treasury Department.

“There have been no decisions about what exactly we will do,” Boehner said.

But the 11th-hour proposal is unlikely to reshape the endgame of the debt and budget crisis, which will still hinge on Reid and McConnell hammering out a bipartisan deal in the Senate, and which Boehner, faced with no other options, could be forced to pass with Democratic votes.

“Let’s be clear: the House legislation will not pass the Senate,” Reid said Tuesday. “I’m very disappointed in John Boehner.”

With reporting by Alex Rogers and Zeke J. Miller