U.S. Republicans weigh using debt limit as leverage on Obamacare

Wed Aug 21, 2013 10:02pm EDT

* Tactic would be alternative to government shutdown threat on Obamacare

* Cantor aide says debt limit could be way to try to force action

* Another leadership aide says there are discussions but no decision yet

By Caren Bohan

WASHINGTON, Aug 21 (Reuters) - U.S. Republican lawmakers, who staunchly oppose President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, are considering using a fall showdown over the country's borrowing limit as leverage to try to delay the law's implementation.

The idea is gaining traction among Republican leaders in the House of Representatives, aides said on Wednesday. An aide to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the debt limit is a "good leverage point" to try to force some action on the healthcare law known as "Obamacare."

"There are plenty of discussions ongoing but no decisions at this point," said another leadership aide.

Republicans are weighing the tactic as an alternative to another approach that would involve denying funding for the law and threatening a possible government shutdown.

The push to deny funding for Obamacare has the backing of some prominent Republican senators, including Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida.

But many Republicans in both the House and the Senate oppose the shutdown strategy, viewing it as a reckless move that is bound to fail. Many worry the gambit would cause a backlash against their party ahead of the 2014 congressional elections.

When lawmakers return on Sept. 9 from their five-week summer recess, they will face two fall deadlines. If Congress does not pass a measure by Oct. 1 to keep federal agencies funded, the government will shut down.

Another standoff looms in late October or early November when lawmakers must pass an increase in the U.S. debt limit or face a default on the country's debt.

Under one scenario for tackling the fall fiscal fights, Republicans might pass a two-month spending bill at the end of September. That would remove any threat of a shutdown before the debt limit deadline comes up.


As Congress and Obama spar over spending and the debt limit this fall, Obama will also be focused on the rollout of key provisions of the health care law that kick in at the beginning of 2014.

Republicans see the coming weeks as their last chance to try to stop or weaken the law. They contend the law will be a burden on businesses and cost jobs.

In the House of Representatives, Congressman Mark Meadows, a Republican from North Carolina, has been trying to rally House Republicans behind the government shutdown strategy and plans to release a letter on Thursday signed by lawmakers who support that tactic.

Those who are cool to the shutdown strategy include Cantor and House Speaker John Boehner. Just before lawmakers headed out on their August recess, Boehner sought to rally Republicans behind an alternative approaches to undermining Obamacare.

In a closed-door meeting with House Republicans Boehner said the chamber would "take targeted, regular votes" throughout the fall aimed at weakening Obamacare.

With lawmakers still scattered throughout the country during the summer break, Boehner plans to hold a conference call on Thursday with Republican House members.

A senior Republican aide said Boehner holds such calls every August and that the purpose "is just to hear from members" about what constituents are saying.

With Obamacare a top issue for many lawmakers, it is sure to be discussed during the call.

In town hall-style gatherings and meetings that lawmakers are having with constituents during the recess, Obamacare has emerged as one of the biggest issues.

"There's concern, there's worry and then there's anger and fear," said Congressman Marlin Stutzman, a Republican of Indiana.

Stutzman said he plans to sign the letter being circulated by Meadows of North Carolina calling for a defunding of Obamacare.

Conservative groups, including Heritage Action for America, have been holding events in lawmakers' districts to try to pressure them to support the push to withhold funding for the healthcare law.

Heritage Action is spending $550,000 on online ads and is holding a multi-state tour to push the issue.

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Comments (4)
nowl wrote:
Republicans are always dismantling Obama care (healthcare) so why will the republican’s support another Republicare?

Aug 21, 2013 10:58pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
texascon wrote:
The attack on the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare is out in full force. Unfortunately, they are targeting seniors with fake “U.S.Seniors Straw Polls” which is nothing more than donation requests by a so-called group of “Citizens to Protect Seniors’ Security”. This group is a project of “Christian Seniors Association” which is a “project of Traditional Values Coalition”. They say this is a poll “on New Legislation o Repeal ObamaCare’s Medicare Rationing Board”. I guess it is a “traditional value” to dupe seniors with falsehoods about a “Rationing Board” which has already been debunked. This contribution request letter, signed by a Mr. Jim Lafferty, Executive Director is a disgusting ploy to get seniors to fork over whatever they can “afford” by scaring them with illegitimate claims. I have a mind to report this as Postal Fraud.

Aug 21, 2013 11:12pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
sadiedog wrote:
This just figures, 535 monkeys f–king a football, how embarrassing. That’s what gets me the most, these idiots aren’t even embarrassed over their pathetic actions, they could care less what the world thinks of them and us. Lets get ‘em all out come next year, anybody with me?

Aug 21, 2013 11:31pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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