Pivotal meeting for House GOP

House Republican leaders have called a special meeting of their conference on Monday night to come up with a legislative strategy on the debt ceiling.

The meeting, set for 5:30 p.m. in the Capitol basement, comes as Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and others in GOP leadership are struggling to come up with policy provisions to attach to an increase in the nation's borrowing limit.

ADVERTISEMENT
Leaders are expected to present a single plan for discussion at the meeting and could make a final decision based on the response from members. 

The top contender for addition to the bill is a reversal of the military pension cuts in the December budget deal, according to a senior GOP aide.

The pension cost-of-living change saved $6 billion over 10 years, and it is unclear whether the GOP might propose an offset in the budget to end it.

Ir could be offset by extending the existing decade of sequester cuts. Discretionary sequester caps last through 2021 and mandatory cuts were extended through 2023 by the December budget deal. 

The White House on Monday wouldn't say if the president would sign a deal linking the debt ceiling to a reversal of the pension cut.

“I'm not going to get into a 'what if this were the bill or that were the bill,’” said White House press secretary Jay Carney. “Our position has not changed. It hasn't changed for a long, long time. We're not negotiating over Congress' responsibility to pay its bills.”

He added that the White House would “take Republican leaders at their word when they say that they will not let the United States default.”

“We're not going to pay a ransom of any kind in return for Congress doing its job,” he said.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has rejected attaching a military pension fix to the debt ceiling and says the increase must be free of other provisions.

Another proposal has been a short-term "doc fix" reversal of doctor fee cuts under Medicare. But sources say that proposal is now out of the mix due to pushback from lawmakers and physician groups that are invested in passage of a permanent doc fix this year.

Boehner last week said the House GOP had yet to reach a consensus about how to address the debt limit.

“We’re still looking for the pieces to this puzzle,” Boehner said Thursday. “But listen, we do not want to default on our debt, and we’re not going to default on our debt.”

The $17 trillion debt ceiling came back into effect on Friday, after it was suspended as part of October's deal to reopen the government. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has warned Congress he can only stave off a possible default until Feb. 27.

The House is scheduled to leave town on Wednesday and won't return until the last week of February. In order to pass a bill this week, GOP leaders would need to put a bill online Monday night in order to comply with the chamber's rule of making legislation available three days in advance.

House leaders had flirted with the idea of reversing an ObamaCare program they call a "bailout" for insurers, but they could not find 217 members to vote for that idea.

If the Republicans cannot find enough support for a plan at Monday's meeting, they might need to rely on Democratic votes by bringing a "clean" debt ceiling increase to the floor.

Bernie Becker and Justin Sink contributed to this story.

This story was updated at 2:42 p.m.