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Debt Limit Debate and the CR Confrontation

While waiting to see how the Senate reacts to the Continuing Resolution proposal (HJ Res 59) that also would defund the Affordable Care Act, House GOP leaders have been working on the debt limit issue.  The proposed debt strategy would allow Federal borrowing to continue; remove the current debt ceiling until after next year’s elections; delay the health care law for a year; undertake spending reforms for Medicare and other mandatory programs; and fund the Keystone pipeline — among a host of other provisions.

The original thought was to take up the debt ceiling vote before House members would have to react over the weekend to the anticipated Senate stripped down Continuing Resolution that also shortens the extension timeframe from mid-December to November 15th.  Working through the debt ceiling first could give some “cover” to House Republicans who want to avoid shutting down the government but feel strongly that the health care bill should, at a minimum, be delayed if not defunded.  At first, the strategy seemed to be gaining strength among House members who would accept a “clean” short-term continuing resolution as long as the debt ceiling measure includes a health care funding delay.  More recently, however, House conservatives are refusing to take on the debt ceiling debate until the funding extension and health care act issues are resolved.  There is some speculation that the House may try a third way – send the Senate a one week CR to allow additional time for debate on the more divisive issues.

It remains to be seen whether the government will be shuttered at midnight on Monday or whether there is any room for compromise, even in the short term.  President Obama continues to stand behind his veto threat for any bill or resolution that defunds or delays implementation of the Affordable Care Act.