House Republicans Counter Senate Proposal on Government Shutdown, Debt

Oct 15, 2013 10:59 AM



CBS NEWS/ October 15, 2013

With only two days left until the U.S. government can no longer borrow enough money to pay his bills, the House and Senate are poised to put forward competing plans to lift the debt ceiling and end the government shutdown.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., negotiated a plan Monday that would fund the government through Jan. 15 and raise the nation's borrowing authority through Feb. 7. With Reid saying he was "very optimistic" about the prospect of reaching a deal, the White House postponed a meeting with congressional leaders in order to give them more time to negotiate and McConnell prepared to meet with his caucus on Tuesday.

The question was whether the House would accept the Senate-brokered deal, and the answer coming out of a morning meeting of the Republican conference appears to be no - at least not in its current form. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said Monday morning that the House was readying a bill similar to the one in the Senate, with some changes meant to have a larger impact on the implementation of Obamacare.

"There are a lot of opinions about what direction to go. There have been no decisions about what exactly we will do, but we're going to continue to work with our members on both sides of the aisle to try to make sure that there is no issue of default and to get our government reopened," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio said at a press conference after the House GOP met Monday morning. On the issue of default, he said, "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 White House issued a statement as a House GOP meeting was breaking up rejecting the plan as a "partisan attempt to appease a small group of tea party Republicans."

"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," said White House spokesman Amy Brundage. "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."

The White House has scheduled a meeting with the House Democratic leadership for 3:15 p.m.

According to a House leadership aide, the House will adopt a proposal that has been pushed by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., to prevent members of Congress, the president, vice president, and the Cabinet from receiving subsidies to buy insurance on the exchange market. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued new rules earlier this year saying that members of Congress could exempt some staffers from the exchange. The new rules also said that members of Congress and staffers purchasing insurance on the exchange were eligible for employer contributions to their plans, which Vitter has argued is special treatment. In fact, the rule merely addresses the fact that the rule requiring Congress and congressional staffers to buy insurance on the exchanges never properly fit into the scheme of Obamacare.

The House plan will remove a Senate proposal - which had been favored by labor unions -- to delay for one year a special tax of $63 on all insurance plans to help spread out the costs of giving insurance to the most ill Americans for the first time. Instead, the House will include a two-year delay of the medical device tax, a provision unpopular with both parties that had been proposed in an earlier version of the Senate plan but was during further negotiations.

The House will use the same dates as the Senate - reopening the federal government until Jan. 15 and raising the debt ceiling until Feb. 7 - but will take the step of barring the Treasury Department from using an accounting method known as "extraordinary measures" to allow the government to manage its cash in such a way that it can keep paying bills for a period of time once the U.S. legally hits its cap on spending.

CBS News' Nancy Cordes reports that House Republicans want to get in front of the Senate and pass their plan before the Senate can act, because they feel Republicans in the upper chamber did not win enough concession from Democrats in exchange for shutting down the government.

What's not immediately clear is whether Boehner will have enough votes to pass this plan. In a sign of a potential conservative revolt, a group of 15 to 20 House Republicans reportedly met in secret with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in the basement of a Capitol Hill restaurant Monday evening, according to Roll Call. Cruz helped engineer the shutdown by persuading House Republicans to use it as a bargaining chip in order to seek defunding or a delay of the healthcare law.

Pressure is rising on Republicans as their poll numbers have grown worse with every day of the government shutdown. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll released Monday found that a new high of 74 percent of Americans disapprove of their handling of the budget crisis, up 11 points from a poll before the shutdown began. Only 53 percent of people surveyed disapprove of how President Obama has handled the situation, and 61 percent for Senate Democrats.

The House will vote Tuesday on its plan. It is still unclear when the Senate would vote on theirs.

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