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The failure of House Republican leaders to pass a healthcare measure this week exposes a GOP weakness going into the high-profile debt-ceiling talks this summer.
A number of high-ranking Republican lawmakers close to the whip operation told The Hill, on the condition of anonymity, that there has been a “disconnect” with leadership lately.
Unless rectified, that disconnect could hamper Republican efforts to go toe-to-toe with President Obama on raising the debt ceiling. Obama has steadfastly refused to negotiate on the issue while Republicans in the House and Senate are demanding cuts to accompany any debt-limit hike.
Apparently, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor pushed forward with the Obamacare "fix" despite warnings from Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy that the votes weren't there to pass it. And if they couldn't handle legislative strategy on something as simple as trying to undermine Obamacare, it's fair to ask how they plan to handle raising the debt limit, which needs to be raised in the next two or three months. The answer, according to one House Republican, is that there just isn't a plan:
“The one real frustrating thing is that the impending [debt-limit debate] that we’re about to have — there’s no plan for that. There’s no meeting, no discussions ...” the Republican lawmaker said.
We'll hit the statutory debt limit next month, but the Treasury Department will be able to prevent default for another few weeks through extraordinary measures. But at some point soon, Congress needs to raise the limit or they will force the country into default.
The most sensible thing to do would be for Boehner to let a clean debt limit bill come to the floor and pass with Democratic and Republican votes, but if he insists on moving legislation with Republican votes only, we'll be confronted with yet another hostage crisis.
The last time the debt limit came up, President Obama said he would not negotiate at gunpoint, and Republicans backed down before a major escalation. That may be what happens again this summer. But if it doesn't, and they do escalate their ransom demands, President Obama will once again be forced to choose between letting Republicans sabotage the country and letting them blackmail it. Of course, as we're learning from the sequester, it can be very hard to tell the difference.