Back to the Drawing Board? House Delay Could Spell Trouble for Last-Ditch Debt Plan

Oct 15, 2013 6:06 PM

House Republicans abruptly postponed a meeting late Tuesday that would have advanced a GOP proposal to end the ongoing government shutdown and avert a looming default.

The delay of the House Rules Committee meeting, which would have teed up an evening vote on the measure, came after conservatives said they wouldn't back the bill. Without Democratic support, House Speaker John Boehner would have needed all but a handful of Republicans on board or else face an embarrassing defeat.

Heritage Action for America, a prominent conservative group, announced that it would “key vote” legislative action on this proposal, holding “yes” votes against politically vulnerable Republicans.

“Unfortunately, the proposed deal will do nothing to stop Obamacare’s massive new entitlements from taking root — radically changing the nature of American health care,” the group said in a statement.

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The proposed plan would fund the government until Dec. 15, raise the debt ceiling until Feb. 7. It would also strip lawmakers, their staff and members of the Obama administration of subsidies to buy insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges.

Democrats were not on board with the GOP plan either. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced after a meeting at the White House that Boehner should be prepared to pass the bill "with 100 percent Republican votes.”

House Republican leaders huddled after the postponement of the meeting to determine a path forward.

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GOP leaders pulled an earlier proposal from consideration Monday morning after it became clear that it would not get enough votes for passage. But a spokesman for Boehner earlier Tuesday said that a revised plan would be put up for a vote by the end of the day.

The stakes are high for authorizing a new borrowing limit to avoid U.S. default on its debts before a Thursday deadline. Before the vote, Fitch Ratings put the U.S. government’s AAA credit rating on “rating watch negative,” citing uncertainty over the debt ceiling. Markets tumbled as lawmakers announced that separate Senate negotiations had been put on hold amid the House back-and-forth.

President Barack Obama said that he’s optimistic that lawmakers will reach an eleventh hour agreement to avert default but again warned that congressional leaders need to find a solution fast.

“My expectation is it does get solved but we don't have a lot of time,” he said in an interview with WABC. “What I'm suggesting to the congressional leaders is let's not do any posturing, let's not try to save face, let's not worry about politics. Do what's right.”

As the House pushed its version of a fix, Senate Democrats fumed at the lower chamber for what Majority Leader Harry Reid called a “blatant attack on bipartisanship.”

“I know I speak for many of us who were working in good faith when I say we felt blindsided by news from the House,” Reid said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had been working on a bipartisan deal with Reid, stepped away from those talks as the House continued its work on a proposal.

But a bipartisan group of senators has quietly restarted efforts to forge a compromise path.

Led by Maine Republican Susan Collins, the 14 senators from both parties say they're resuming talks after earlier discussions took a backseat to wrangling by McConnell and Reid.

"We've just had a very good discussion picking up where we left off, trying to find a way out of this gridlock and the impasse," Collins told NBC News after the meeting. "It was a great discussion, we're continuing to work, and that's all we have to report."

NBC News' Kasie Hunt and Frank Thorp contributed reporting.


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