House Republicans contemplating short-term debt extension

The House Republican leadership reportedly is seriously considering passing its own six-week extension of borrowing, unless a Senate compromise emerges in the next day or two. A senior House Republican aide told Politico that “there will be a time fairly soon, I think, where the only option to get something done before the deadline is originating legislation in the House.”

The legislation contemplated by House leadership reportedly would not be a completely “clean” raising of the debt ceiling. Instead, it would contain Obamacare-related fig leafs, e.g., delaying the tax on medical devices and/or ending health-insurance subsidies for members of Congress, their aides and other federal government employees (the Vitter amendment).

Senate Democrats might not accept the medical device tax delay, since that money helps fund Obamacare. They would be hard-pressed, though, to reject the Vitter amendment. That would mean sending the country into whatever turmoil results from not raising the debt ceiling for no reason other than retaining personal perks.

Congressional Republicans want these perks as much as congressional Democrats, but might bite the bullet given the weakness of their overall position in the fiscal fight.

But if Republicans take an Obamacare fig leaf in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, then no such fig leaf remains to resolve the government shutdown. So the Democrats will be able to retain indefinitely this gift that keeps on giving.

On balance, then, Republicans are probably better off at this time not passing a short-term debt extension with Obamacare provisions. They are probably better-advised to see whether they can make a broader deal at the twelfth hour, or maybe the thirteenth.

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