House Republicans late Monday night unveiled a new plan of action on raising the nation's debt ceiling, one that ties a hike in the debt limit to a restoration of full pension benefits for some military veterans.
The plan was hashed out in final during a special conference meeting Monday evening, during which House Republican leaders looked for enough policy support from the conference to pass the legislation.
The legislation pays for the increase in spending from the restored military pension benefits by tacking on another year of some sequester cuts in Medicare and other mandatory spending programs.
The House could vote on the measure as soon as Wednesday. If it doesn't approve the legislation, House Speaker John Boehner could then pivot to a "clean" increase in the nation's debt ceiling — just days before a Feb. 27 deadline.
Leadership feels that this legislation gives it the best chance of passing something with a mix of Republican and Democratic votes. But Democrats, while not outwardly dismissing the legislation Monday night, continued to say they prefer a "clean" hike.
And conservatives sharply pushed back on the measure, because it increases spending. Over the past three years, Republicans have framed the raising the debt ceiling as a debate over curbing long-term spending.
"What in the world has happened between August of 2011 – when the president and the Senate were partners with us, to both raise the debt ceiling, and try to solve the problem – to today, where folks say, 'No, clean debt ceiling. No problem, nothing to see here,'" Rep. Rob Woodall said.
Added Rep. Mo Brooks: "It's an entire 180-degree flip flop."
Right now, time is Congress' worst enemy, in a fiscal battle that has been largely fought within the Republican conference.
The House is only in session for three days this week, before House Democrats go on their annual strategy retreat. The next full day that Congress is scheduled to be in session is Feb. 26 — one day before the "drop-dead date," after which Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said the Treasury will have trouble meeting all of its obligations.
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