* Tactic would be alternative to government shutdown threat
* Cantor aide says debt limit could be way to try to force
* Another leadership aide says there are discussions but no
By Caren Bohan
WASHINGTON, Aug 21 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
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.
REPUBLICANS EYE FALL OBAMACARE ROLLOUT
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
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
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
Stutzman said he plans to sign the letter being circulated
by Meadows of North Carolina calling for a defunding of
On Wednesday night, at a lively town hall meeting in
Allentown, Pennsylvania, Republican Representative Charlie Dent
called Obamacare "fatally flawed" and predicted it would lead
employers to cut workers' hours or jobs.
The Pennsylvania lawmaker talked of a hotel owner who
confided to him that he's worried he will need to cut his
workers' hours to part time. Starting in 2015, the law will
require many companies to provide insurance for full-time
Unlike Stutzman, Dent does not support using the threat of a
government shutdown as leverage on Obamacare. He said he didn't
think the tactic would work.
Obamacare was raised repeatedly by attendees at the town
hall, although other issues such as immigration and tax reform
also came up.
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
Heritage Action is spending $550,000 on online ads and is
holding a multi-state tour to push the issue.