House Hints At Plan To Counter Senate’s, But Details Are Scant

By Scott Neuman NPR

(This post updated at 11:45 a.m. ET)

House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday that Republican leaders were “trying to find a way forward” in the partisan impasse over the partial government shutdown and debt ceiling, but gave no specifics of a reported counter-proposal to an emerging Senate plan. It also wasn’t clear whether the speaker had the votes to pass it.

There were reports Tuesday morning of a House deal for a two-year delay of a tax on medical devices tied to the Affordable Care Act in exchange for reopening the federal government.

But Boehner stopped short of fleshing anything out when he spoke to reporters. “We’re trying to find a way forward in a bipartisan way to find fairness for the American people,” he said.

When asked, however, Boehner fell short of a guarantee not to let the government default.

“I have made clear for months and months that the idea of default is wrong,” Boehner said. “We shouldn’t be anywhere near it.” He said he was “working with our friends on both sides of the aisle” to try to make a deal.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor picked up the theme of “fairness for all,” suggesting that a reported measure to bring Congress under the rubric of the Affordable Care Act was part of a developing House plan. Such a move would be largely symbolic, since members of Congress have government-provided health care coverage.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi decried the “Republican act of sabotage” that was “a luxury our country cannot afford.”

Any House GOP plan could throw a monkey wrench into the partisan political mix and thwart a deal before Thursday, when a debt ceiling deadline expires and the federal government will no longer be able to borrow money and will have to pay bills with only the cash it has on hand each day.

President Obama has vowed that any rollback of his signature health care law would be a deal breaker. But whether a delay in the tax that Republicans previously insisted be entirely eliminated is a show-stopper wasn’t known.

The latest flurry follows news Monday of an emerging plan in the Senate. That plan would fund the government through Jan. 15 and suspend the debt ceiling until Feb. 7. It would include only limited changes to the Affordable Care Act and was thought to represent a compromise that Obama and congressional Democrats would accept.

USAToday describes the Senate plan as “approving a stopgap funding bill to reopen government through Jan. 15; suspend the debt ceiling until Feb. 7; and create the framework for formal budget negotiations to conclude by Dec. 15 with long-term recommendations for funding levels and deficit reduction.”

In exhange, The Washington Post says “policymakers would launch a new round of talks over broader budget issues in hopes of developing a plan to replace deep automatic spending cuts known as the sequester before Jan. 15 … [and] [minor] safeguards to ensure that people who receive federal subsidies to purchase health insurance under the law are eligible to receive them.”

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