New House GOP plan as debt-limit deadline nears

By David Espo

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 15 2013 3:53 p.m. MDT

From left, Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., walk out of the West Wing of the White House to speak with reporters following their meeting with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, in Washington. The partial government shutdown is in its third week and less than two days before the Treasury Department says it will be unable to borrow and will rely on a cash cushion to pay the country's bills.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

WASHINGTON — Time growing desperately short, House Republicans pushed for passage of legislation late Tuesday to prevent a threatened Treasury default, end a 15-day partial government shutdown and extricate divided government from its latest brush with a full political meltdown.

There was no immediate reaction from the White House to the measure, which was revised from a version unveiled only hours earlier that had been stocked with conservative priorities and had drawn swift condemnation from Democrats.

While the House readied for a possible Tuesday night vote, the immediate result was to impose a daylong freeze on Senate negotiations on a bipartisan compromise that had appeared ready to bear fruit.

As a day of secret meetings and frenzied maneuvering unfolded in all corners of the Capitol, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., stood on the Senate floor at midafternoon and declared, "We are 33 hours away from becoming a deadbeat nation, not paying its bills to its own people and other creditors."

The New York Stock Exchange fell 133 points after rising a day earlier when optimism spread that a deal might be at hand. Separately, Fitch Ratings announced after the markets had closed it was putting the government's AAA bond rating on watch because of uncertainty over the debt limit.

Under the revised bill prepared by House Republicans, the Treasury would be permitted to borrow normally until Feb. 7 and the government reopened with sufficient funds to carry it to Dec. 15.

Additionally, members of Congress, the president, vice president and thousands of aides would no longer be eligible to receive employer health care contributions from the government that employs them.

"The House will vote tonight to reopen the government and avoid default," Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner said in a statement.

He said the legislation would "end Obamacare subsidies for elected officials and staff in Washington, D.C., and pressure Senate Democrats to accept more sensible" time frames for reopening the government and renewing Treasury's borrowing authority.

Gone from the measure was a pair of provisions that had drawn objections, one a plan to delay a medical device tax created under the new health care law known as Obamacare. The other would have imposed tougher income verification standards on individuals and families seeking subsidies for care under the law.

Democrats had viewed both as concessions to Republicans, and deemed their inclusion as a violation of Obama's vow not to pay a "ransom" to the GOP for passing essential funding and borrowing measures.

Even with the changes, it was unclear whether Boehner and the GOP leadership had the votes to pass their measure.

Heritage Action, a group with close tea party ties, announced it would oppose the measure because "it will do absolutely nothing to help Americans who are negatively impacted by Obamacare." It said it would include the vote in its determinations next year on which candidates to support in the midterm elections.

The day's events prompted an outbreak of partisan rhetoric, mixed with urgent warnings that both the U.S. and global economies could suffer severe damage quickly unless Congress acted by Thursday.

Even something of an appeal for heavenly aid was thrown in, as Rep. Steve Southerland of Florida led House Republicans in a rendition of "Amazing Grace" at the beginning of a rank-and-file meeting called to discuss a way out of the impasse.

Speaking with reporters, Boehner said, "I have made clear for months and months that the idea of default is wrong and we shouldn't get anywhere close to it."

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