GOP’s New Strategy: Avert Default But Keep Government Shut

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)
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Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced Thursday that the House will move forward with a six-week debt limit extension after pitching the idea to his Republican conference during a closed-door meeting.

The plan would sustain the government shutdown — now in its 10th day — while temporarily averting a catastrophic debt default by authorizing continued borrowing through Nov. 22. Conservative activists like Heritage Action’s chief and RedState blogger Erick Erickson paved the way for this plan this week by calling on the GOP to wage their fight against Obamacare on the government funding measure, rather than the debt ceiling.

“What we’re going to do is to offer the president, today, the ability to move a temporary increase in the debt ceiling,” Boehner told reporters after the meeting, “and an agreement to go to conference on the budget for his willingness to sit down and discuss with us a way forward to reopen the government and to start to deal with America’s pressing problems.”

The legislation hasn’t been finalized yet. It’s expected to omit unrelated policy measures but may require an agreement to negotiate a longer-term solution, according to one source. And the U.S. would not be permitted to take extraordinary measures to borrow after Nov. 22. The country’s borrowing authority is currently set to be exhausted next Thursday on Oct. 17.

“We’re going to offer legislation that will offer a temporary increase in the debt ceiling,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA), the No. 4 House Republican. “That will allow us some time to continue this conversation.”

The more moderate House Republicans are baffled by the idea of sustaining the unpopular shutdown while temporarily extending the debt limit. But they’re likely to contain their frustrations, yet again, and support leadership’s latest move. Conservative members appeared uneasy with the plan but several of them voiced support for it.

President Barack Obama supports a longer debt limit extension but is open to a short-term hike as long as it doesn’t have policy add-ons, and wants the government re-opened.

“While we are willing to look at any proposal Congress puts forward to end these manufactured crises, we will not allow a faction of the Republicans in the House to hold the economy hostage to its extraneous and extreme political demands,” a White House official said. “Congress needs to pass a clean debt limit increase and a funding bill to reopen the government.”

House Democrats aren’t opposing Boehner’s short-term debt limit plan just yet. One senior aide said they’re waiting to read the text of the bill. If Democrats supply a substantial number of votes, the legislation is much likelier to succeed.

Boehner demurred when asked about how he wants to deal with reopening the government.

“That’s a conversation we’re going to have with the president today,” he said, referring to an upcoming meeting Thursday at the White House that involves senior House Republicans. I don’t want to put anything on the table, I don’t want to take anything off the table.”

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