Senate GOP rallies around rival plan on debt ceiling, shutdown

Senate Republicans are unhappy with a House GOP plan to raise the debt ceiling for six weeks without funding the federal government. They are coalescing around their own proposal to pair a short-term debt-ceiling increase with a year-long stopgap to fund the government. 

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Under their plan, the government would be funded for a year at the $967 billion level set by the 2011 Budget Control Act.

The package would also include a repeal of ObamaCare's medical-device tax and language to require income verification of people who apply for healthcare subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, said GOP sources familiar with the talks.

Some Senate Republicans are willing to extend the debt limit for as long as six months, while others say the extension should only last for a few months.

Republican lawmakers say Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who did not support the push to shut down the government in order to win concessions on ObamaCare, is at the center of the talks. 

“We’re working on our own plan. I think it will be better,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), when asked about the short-term House Republican debt-ceiling offer.

GOP senators worry the damage the shutdown has inflicted on the GOP brand could imperil their chances of winning the Senate majority in 2014.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said repealing the medical device tax is “one of the fundamentals” of the Senate GOP proposal.

“That’s going to be in any final agreement,” he said.

McCain also cited “verification” of income for people applying for subsidies on the health exchanges.

Senate Republicans are not satisfied with the House GOP debt-ceiling plan because it would do nothing to reopen the government.

After watching their party’s approval rating sink to 28 percent in the latest Gallup poll, they want to get the government operating again as soon as possible.

“Most Americans are fed up. That’s why we have a 28-percent approval rating in the Gallup Poll, an all-time low since 1992 since they’ve been asking that question,” McCain said.

Alexander said it's not enough to raise the debt limit without funding the government.

“We need to do both. The country is disgusted with the government being shut down and so am I. I'm not in the 'shut down the government' crowd, I’m in the 'takeover the government' crowd and this is not helping,” he added.

Some Republicans also want to add language requiring members of Congress to receive the same treatment under ObamaCare as regular citizens.

"We want to make sure Congress adheres to the laws of ObamaCare. No special treatment,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said.

Republicans say President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) must be willing to cede some ground if Congress is to reopen the government and avoid a federal default. Democrats have said they will not negotiate any further until Republicans pass a clean stopgap and a clean debt-limit increase.

“The president and Harry had better understand that it’s better to negotiate and try to reach a solution than try to just win an all-out victory,” McCain said. “That’s not the way this place works because what goes around comes around.”

“There’s a lot of consolidation that’s occurring,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said.

Corker said McConnell is taking a leading role.

“There are some very healthy, positive discussions that are occurring on the Senate side. Mitch is leading those and many of us are working with counterparts on the other side of the aisle to float some ideas,” he said.

— This story was updated at 6:32 p.m.