Several U.S. House Republicans said they haven’t lined up enough votes for a bill that would pair a U.S. debt-limit increase with some type of policy changes, such as rolling back part of the Obamacare health law.
House Speaker John Boehner told reporters today that his members have “a lot of opinions about how to deal with the debt limit,” though “no decisions have been made.”
“We’re in discussion with that,” Republican Mario Diaz- Balart of Florida said today about a debt-limit increase at a Bloomberg Government breakfast. “I don’t think there is a consensus yet with that in terms of what issues are going to be brought up with the debt ceiling.”
A suspension of the federal debt limit, enacted by Congress in October, is scheduled to expire Feb. 7. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew has urged Congress to act quickly to raise the cap, saying the government’s ability to meet its obligations will run out before the end of this month.
A dispute over raising the debt limit was among the issues that led to the 16-day partial government shutdown in October. House Republicans tried repeatedly to attach policy provisions curbing Obamacare and promoting the Keystone XL pipeline in exchange for raising the debt cap and funding the government.
Ultimately, the debt limit was suspended with no conditions. Boehner of Ohio later said that forcing the impasse over Obamacare was a “predictable disaster.”
President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats have said they won’t negotiate with Republicans on raising the debt limit.
Senator John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, said Feb. 1 that “probably enough” members of his party in the Senate would back a debt-ceiling increase with no conditions attached.
The 232 House Republicans have held at least two rounds of private strategy talks, including last week at their annual retreat in Cambridge, Maryland, and again today.
“We’re going to put a number of things together and hopefully get a consensus,” said Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican and chairman of the Republican Study Committee. That group, which includes almost 180 House members, advocates limiting government spending.
The House isn’t scheduled to take up a debt limit bill before Feb. 7, though Republicans have said they won’t provoke a debt crisis.
Still, “it’s very difficult to ask our members to vote for a clean debt ceiling,” House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers said in an interview. “The debt needs to be addressed in this country,” she said. “We’d like to see some reforms, spending reductions, to make sure that we don’t continue on this current path.”
If House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California doesn’t provide Democratic votes for a Republican proposal, Republicans would have to find support within their own members. That would include those lawmakers who have previously refused to vote for a debt bill without demanding significant concessions in exchange.
Asked whether any debt limit measure could get enough Republican votes to guarantee passage without needing Democratic votes, Boehner said today, “We’ll see.”