House Republican leaders scrambled Tuesday after conservatives criticized their new plan to avert default. Just two days away from the deadline, it quickly hit turbulence with lawmakers concerned about the lack of spending cuts and upfront debt reduction.
“There are sincere, deep thoughts of concern,” said Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) as he exited a closed-door Republican conference meeting Tuesday, in which leaders pitched the proposal.
The proposal dramatically ratchets down GOP demands but tacks on additional reforms to the framework that Senate leaders are close to agreement on. Like the Senate plan, it reopens and funds the government through Jan. 15, lifts the debt ceiling through Feb. 7, establishes budget conference negotiations and requires that Obamacare exchange enrollees verify their income eligibility prior to receiving any subsidies.
It adds a two-year delay of Obamacare’s medical device tax and strips subsidies for members of Congress, the President and Vice President and top administration officials. It retains financial assistance for staff buying insurance on the marketplaces.
“Both plans are financially irresponsible,” said Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL). “Both kick the can down the road. Both force America to deal with a debt crisis when we are weaker because we’ll have incurred more debt.”
“I don’t know if it would pass the House or not,” he said. “Here and now is when we ought to be addressing these financial issues that have put us in this precarious position. And we’re not.”
Veteran Reps. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) also told TPM after exiting the meeting that they don’t know if the plan has the votes to pass.
Making matters worse, the White House rejected it as a “ransom” demand.
“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 spokeswoman Amy Brundage. “Unfortunately, the latest proposal from House Republicans does just that in a partisan attempt to appease a small group of Tea Party Republicans who forced the government shutdown in the first place.”
Senate Democratic leadership also dismissed the GOP proposal.
“Let’s be clear: the House legislation will not pass the Senate,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). “I’m very disappointed in John Boehner, who has once again tried to preserve his role ahead of what’s good for the country.”
After the GOP meeting, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) left open the possibility of tweaking the proposal before bringing it to a floor vote.
“There are a lot of opinions about what direction to go,” he told reporters. “There have been no decisions about what exactly we will do.”
Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), one of the more moderate Republicans, told reporters that the plan “moves the ball forward” and that he would vote for it.
“I don’t know if the votes are there to pass it,” he said.