Six months after the last time Republicans played chicken with the U.S. economy, the party has hit reset on its dangerous game. Chastened by a public backlash against the party last October, when Republicans shut down the government for fifteen days and threatened a debt default unless the Affordable Care Act was delayed for one year, some GOP members want the party to pass a “clean” debt-ceiling increase and move on. But others, report The Post’s Robert Costa and Ed O’Keefe, want to take yet another debt hostage:
The bargaining idea that appears to have the most momentum is a repeal of the provision in the Affordable Care Act known as “risk corridors,” which limit the amount of money that a health-insurance plan can make and lose during the first three years it is sold on the new health-care exchanges. Republicans see the corridors as bailouts for the insurance industry if the plans start losing money.
A second option being considered by the Republican leadership would be to ask President Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline in exchange for a debt-limit extension.
In a small huddle after the conference-wide session, Boehner and other House GOP leaders privately agreed that the risk-corridors proposal was gathering momentum. Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) sense that House Republicans will end up rallying behind that plan in the coming days.
It’s hard to decide which of these two options is the more ridiculous. Whatever you think of the Keystone XL pipeline, it has nothing to do with the debt ceiling, and the two have no business being linked. Even Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), chairman of the uber-conservative Republican Study Committee, says, “Keystone ought to be approved on its own merits. I’d like to see a repeal of the bailouts for the insurance companies. That’s becoming a real strong prospect. It’d be good to put it on the table.”
But the Congressional Budget Office’s latest report just made repealing “risk corridors” (or, to use Republicans’ preferred term, the “Obamacare bailout”) look even dumber. The GOP has been trumpeting (sometimes misleadingly) the CBO’s finding that the law will reduce full-time employment by 2.5 million workers. But the report also says that the “risk corridors” will save the government $8 billion.
In short, the GOP — the self-proclaimed party of fiscal responsibility — plans to demand the debt ceiling not be raised unless the federal government spends an additional $8 billion.
Farce becomes tragedy, though, when one realizes how unnecessary this debt-ceiling theater is. Republicans know that, just like last October, voters will blame them if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, in no small part because of the catastrophic effect on the economy. In the end, says Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), the debt limit increase “is going to end up being clean anyway.” The GOP could save everyone a lot of time and worry if the party — and its base that is pushing for more hostage-taking — just grew up and moved on.