House Republican leaders have altered a Senate plan to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government that they may vote on it as early as today, but a tepid reception from their conservative faction has created uncertainty just days before an Oct. 17 deadline to raise the nation's borrowing limit.
"There are a lot of opinions about what direction to go," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said after presenting the plan to the conference. "There have been no decisions about what exactly we will do. But we're going to continue to work with our members on both sides of the aisle to try to make sure that there is no issue of default, and to get our government reopened."
The House proposal may not be final, but President Obama has already rejected it.
“The President has said repeatedly that Members of Congress don’t get to demand ransom for fulfilling their basic responsibilities to pass a budget and pay the nation’s bills," White House spokesperson Amy Brundage said. "Unfortunately, the latest proposal from House Republicans does just that in a partisan attempt to appease a small group of Tea Party Republicans who forced the government shutdown in the first place."
Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called the House bill "unproductive and a waste of time," that "will not pass the Senate."
The plan which would fund the now-closed government until Jan. 15 and raise the debt ceiling until Feb. 7.
On the surface, the plan appears similar to a Senate bipartisan deal now under construction, which includes the same dates. But there are several key differences that Democrats in both chambers and the president deeply oppose.
Both the House and Senate bill fund the government at $986 billion, the approximate level mandated under the 2011 Budget Control Act.
The Senate bill, however, includes flexibility for the administration to move the funding around between departments in the federal government. The House bill strips out that flexibility.
Republicans signaled they did not trust Democrats with the authority, fearing, according to one GOP lawmaker, they would "recreate agenda that really shouldn't exist."
The House bill also includes a provision that would prohibit the Treasury Secretary from reallocating funds in order to stretch out the borrowing limit past the Feb. 7 date.
"We want to make it a true deadline," Rep. John Fleming, R-La., said.
Democrats flat-out rejected the provision.
"This gives the president the wherewithal to try to avoid an economic disaster," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said. "It is unimaginable to me that any president would surrender this kind of authority under this type of threat."
The House bill institutes a two year delay for the heath care law's 2.3 percent medical device tax and would strip out health insurance subsidies for members of Congress, but not congressional staff.
The bill would also nix a provision in the Senate bill that would have exempted union workers from a $63 health insurance tax and it would require certification that those seeking health insurance subsidies are qualified.
A special House committee is expected to consider the measure shortly and there could be changes made to the bill there, lawmakers told the Washington Examiner.
"The problem that we have is the more we lard down an offer the more likely it is going to be ignored and we are going to get something back that is less," Fleming said. "We want to make a deal that they can't refuse and we are running out of time."