Not again: House GOP still thinks it can use the debt ceiling as leverage

Conservatives in the House of Representatives are aching for another debt ceiling showdown

Published February 4, 2014 4:32PM (EST)

Michele Bachmann, John Boehner, Steve King                                                      (Reuters/Jeff Haynes/AP/J. Scott Applewhite/Reuters/Brian Frank)
Michele Bachmann, John Boehner, Steve King (Reuters/Jeff Haynes/AP/J. Scott Applewhite/Reuters/Brian Frank)

After House Republicans were forced last fall to raise the debt ceiling without extracting any policy concessions from the president, one would think they'd learned their lesson. Turns out, not so much.

According to a report in the Washington Post, the debate occurring within the House's Republican caucus lately is not whether to demand the president support conservative policies in exchange for raising the debt ceiling but rather which conservative policies they should demand.

The options, as far as House conservatives see them: A one-year extension of the debt ceiling tied with the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, or a one-year extension of the debt ceiling tied with repealing Obamacare's risk corridors. (The Republican talking point on risk corridors is to term them "bailouts," which is a misleading and silly description, as the New Republic's Jonathan Cohn describes here.)

The Post reports that House Speaker John Boehner has not thrown his weight behind either of these options, deeming them both acceptable and simply preferring to support whichever has the best chance of gaining "heavy GOP support."

According to Rep. Tom Cole, a member of Boehner's inner circle, the speaker is "looking for the sweet spot" while letting fellow Republicans work out the details.

“We’re in the process of sorting it out,” Cole told the Post. “The number one question is: how do we get to 218 votes? We want to do this in a non-crisis atmosphere, so we have to move soon and work with the administration and see if they want to do anything.”

After a closed-door meeting Tuesday morning to discuss possible strategies, Speaker Boehner told the press that his conference had reached no consensus on the way forward.

In fact, Republicans can't seem to even agree on what their options should be — according to a report in Roll Call, some are now proposing raising the debt ceiling for one year in exchange for a change to Medicare provider payments that would last 10 years.

“Listen, the goal here is to increase the debt ceiling. No one wants to default on our debt,” Boehner said. He went on to say there were “a lot of opinions about how to deal with the debt limit" but that "[n]o decisions have been made.”

By Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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