Deidre Shesgreen reports:
WASHINGTON—After a closed-door meeting with his GOP troops, House Speaker John Boehner’s efforts to counter an emerging Senate plan to reopen the government and avert a debt crisis had collapsed.
The West Chester Republican is once again in familiar territory—with hard-line conservatives lukewarm about his new proposal and Senate Democrats unabashedly opposed.
Before Boehner even had a chance to outline the proposal in public, it disintegrated because GOP leaders realized they couldn’t win enough GOP votes for it to pass the House.
Here’s what Boehner said instead at a news conference Tuesday morning: “There are a lot of opinions about what direction to go. There have been no decisions about what exactly we will do.”
The government shutdown, now in its 15th day, began when House Republicans refused to advance a stopgap funding bill unless it included provisions to delay or defund the Affordable Care Act. That fight has now spilled into a parallel battle over raising the debt ceiling. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said the U.S. will stop being able to meet all of its financial obligations on time by Oct. 17 if Congress does not increase the nation’s borrowing authority.
On Monday night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, crafted a tentative deal to fund federal agencies through Jan.15 and raise the debt limit through Feb. 7.
The Reid-McConnell plan also included a one-year delay in a tax that employers have to pay as part of the health care reform law, as well as strengthened income verification requirements for those who receive health care subsidies available under Obamacare.
House Republicans immediately rejected the Senate deal. “I don’t think it’s a compromise,” said Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa Township.
As a counter offer, Boehner outlined a proposal with the same spending and debt increase deadlines, but adding in a two-year delay of the medical device tax and other provisions that Democrats staunchly oppose.
Reid said he felt “blindsided” by the House’s new effort and called it a “blatant attack on bipartisanship.” The White House also rejected the idea.
But Democrats didn’t need to pile on, because the most conservative members of Boehner’s House Republican majority had already nixed it.
Tiberi said he didn’t know what the House GOP’s next move would be. And Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., said he couldn’t comment on the GOP plan yet.
“Things kind of need to gel a little bit,” Massie said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., urged his House colleagues to rally around Boehner and let him pass a bill.
“I cannot stress to you how important it is for the country — and for the Republican party — for the House to get to 218 votes,” he said of the threshold for passing legislation in the House. “If one of the casualties of a strategy that turned out to be unrealistic was John Boehner — that would be bad for the country and bad for the party.”