House Republican leaders Thursday told their rank and file that they plan to offer President Obama a plan to temporarily raise the nation's $16.7 trillion debt ceiling to buy Congress and the White House time to negotiate a longer-term deal on major spending reforms.
"It's time for these negotiations and conversations to begin," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said after meeting privately with GOP members on the 10th day of a government shutdown.
The deal would increase the debt ceiling for six weeks, averting a potential financial crisis once the government hits the limit on Oct. 17. But the measure would not reopen the government, something Obama insists must be part of any deal. Republicans will offer the proposal to Obama in a Thursday afternoon meeting at the White House.
"What we have discussed with the conference is a temporary increase in the debt ceiling in exchange for a real commitment … to sit down and talk about the pressing problems that are facing the American people. And that includes a broad array of issues," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said.
Republican lawmakers pouring out of the basement meeting room were mostly supportive of the plan.
"I think it's a fair compromise," said Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va. "It gives certainty, at least for the next 45 days, and we are going to have a chance for people to sit down and talk about the debt ceiling."
The House would likely try to pass the legislation on Friday, although GOP leaders have not formally announced a vote schedule.
Many lawmakers said the outcome will depend on the afternoon meeting, and whether Obama is open to negotiations that would be meaningful to the GOP. In other words, Obama would have to say he is willing to consider entitlement and spending reductions and perhaps even tax reform as part of the bargain.
"I think the key thing here is what the president reaction is when our leadership goes down there today to talk with him," said Doc Hastings, R-Wash. "We'll see what he has to say. If he wants to negotiate on the bigger issues facing our country, I think we are open to that."
The leadership may still face its stiffest resistance from conservative House members who were pushing to defund Obamacare as party of any budget deal to end the government shutdown, which entered its second week.
"I'm not very enthusiastic about that," one of those conservatives, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said when asked whether he would back the measure.