House Republican leaders are considering a proposal to raise the debt ceiling that would include legislation to repeal Obamacare's “risk corridor” program, decried as a bailout for health insurance companies.
The Republican leadership is informally whipping the proposal with rank-and-file members to gauge interest and determine if it's possible to corral 218 GOP votes for such a package. The Affordable Care Act's “risk corridor” program protects insurers against excessive financial losses, providing subsidies to companies that lose too much money on a particular plan offered on an Obamacare exchange. The subsidies are jointly financed by insurers and the federal government.
“They’re looking at a lot of options, and that’s one of them,” a Republican congressman said Tuesday.
President Obama is refusing to negotiate a debt ceiling increase, and it appears unlikely that the Democratic Senate would support a plan that included the addition of an extraneous measure, much less one related to Obamacare. The Hill previously reported that Senate Budget Chairman Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said her caucus would not support the repeal of the “risk corridor” program.
Raising the debt ceiling is among the toughest votes for House Republicans. They believe that significant fiscal reforms are required to prevent a future debt crisis, and don’t support a “clean” debt ceiling increase as a matter of policy. Additionally, the GOP base generally opposes raising the debt ceiling, even though failing to do so would lead to the U.S. defaulting on its debt.
But House Republicans also recognize that default is not a viable option and that voters are likely to blame them for any crisis that failing to raise the debt ceiling might precipitate. For that reason, House Republicans are trying to find a way to raise the federal borrowing limit that would provide them with some sort of victory. Repealing the Obamacare “risk corridor” program is viewed as one option that might accomplish that goal.
Some House Republicans have suggested that they would like the Senate to move on a debt ceiling bill first. But the strategy now, if House Republicans can agree on a plan to increase the debt ceiling, would be to act first to prevent Senate Democrats from jamming them at the last minute with a proposal that they oppose. Of course, similar concerns about getting jammed have failed to spur Republicans to act in the past .
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., reiterated Tuesday that his caucus would support only a clean debt-ceiling increase, and he warned Republicans not to force a showdown on the issue. Democrats are emboldened to stand their ground because most voters blamed congressional Republicans for the October government shutdown.
“The last thing we need is another manufactured crisis driven by the Tea Party-driven Republicans,” Reid said.