House Republicans consider tying debt ceiling raise to defunding Obamacare

Alexis Levinson | Political Reporter

WASHINGTON – Conservative House Republicans are exploring the idea of trading the end of sequester cuts and a debt ceiling raise in exchange for a one year delay of Obamacare.

Earlier this week, Majority Leader Eric Cantor proposed using a legislative procedure under which the House would pass a continuing resolution to fund the government at sequester levels — and avert a government shutdown — alongside a bill to defund Obamacare. The rule of that bill would require sending the Obamacare portion to the Senate, to be voted on before the CR portion is sent over, thus forcing a politically uncomfortable vote on Obamacare for many Democrats in the chamber and preventing a government shutdown.

That plan drew significant pushback from conservative members of the party in both chambers, including Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, one of the people clamoring to use the CR to defund Obamacare. Cruz called it “procedural chicanery.”

But Wednesday’s meeting of the Republican Study Committee, composed of the most conservative House Republicans, had fewer fireworks than such language would suggest.

The discussion, according to California Rep. John Campbell, tried to find a solution “along those lines” of Cantor’s plan, “rather than a completely brand new idea.”

“How do we come up with a strategy that makes this thing work that you can get 218 Republicans behind?” Campbell said.

Rep. John Fleming told reporters that “consensus is building that making this a government shutdown type of confrontation is probably not our best strategy.”

“Our best strategy is to exchange away or swap away sequestration, let the administration have the dollars aback on sequestration, in exchange for a full delay of Obamacare and [an] increase in the debt ceiling,” Fleming said.

“The idea is that there’s going to be more bad news to come out after October 1 about Obamacare, and so the momentum will continue to build in our direction that it’s a bad idea,” he said.

“No one came out and said we all agree on this,” Fleming said, but added that “consensus is starting to build” around the debt ceiling plan.

“There is not a single person in the Republican conference that does not want to repeal Obamacare in its entirety tomorrow … The question is, what is the best way to try to accomplish that or as close to that as we can get?” Campbell told reporters.

A leadership aide on Tuesday told The Daily Caller that was exactly the strategy that leadership was hoping to pursue with their legislative procedure. By separating the CR and the Obamacare defunding components, the aide said, they could make it more likely that the Senate did not amend the CR bill, thus preserving sequester level spending and Republican leverage in the upcoming debt ceiling fight.

Fleming said Cantor did not say anything during the RSC meeting.

The vote on the CR and defunding Obamacare proposal has been postponed; it was initially scheduled for tomorrow.

“This was just announced yesterday and we always anticipated 72 hours would likely not be enough time to work on this complicated plan, especially with Syria issue unresolved. So we’ll take a couple extra days to work on it,” a leadership aide told The Daily Caller.

RSC Chairman Steve Scalise sounded open to the plan outlined by Fleming in a statement released later Wednesday afternoon.

“We can achieve victory for American families without a government shutdown, but I will not surrender in the fight to delay Obamacare for all Americans. We must use every legislative avenue available, through the CR, the debt ceiling, and sequester conversations to free the country from the President’s train-wreck of a healthcare law,” Scalise said, though he said he would “continue pushing for a CR that delays Obamacare for one year.”

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