House GOP to meet Monday to finalize debt limit plan


House Speaker John Boehner on Capitol Hill on Feb. 6. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

House Republicans will meet Monday night at the Capitol in a bid to finalize their debt-limit plan during a “special conference meeting,” per an internal GOP memo sent to lawmakers’ offices.

According to three individuals familiar with the meeting’s agenda, House GOP leaders will ask Republicans to come together and pass legislation this week to extend the federal government’s borrowing authority, which is set to expire later this month.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), the individuals added, will address members about the leadership’s top option, which would link a restoration of recently cut military benefits with a one-year extension of the Treasury’s borrowing authority. The bargaining idea, first pitched last week over lunch, gained currency over the weekend among Republicans.

The decision to hold a Monday evening meeting — rather than waiting until the already planned Tuesday morning huddle inside their usual Capitol basement suite — highlights the growing sense of urgency for Republicans who face a truncated calendar ahead of the Feb. 27 deadline set by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. The House is set to adjourn Wednesday afternoon, first so Democrats can hold an issues retreat on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and then all of next week for the planned recess week for all of Congress.

If no decision is reached by Wednesday, the House is not slated to return for legislative action for nearly two weeks, just days before Lew’s deadline.

The benefits for retired military personnel were reduced in last year’s bipartisan budget agreement, which cut $6 billion in payments to veterans over the next 10 years.

According to two people present at last week’s lunch, Boehner said the maneuver would most likely force Democrats to join with Republicans and also win support from conservatives, who have been upset about changes to the military’s cost-of-living benefits, which were adjusted in December.

Other GOP ideas that have been floated during the past week, such as tying the “doc fix,” which restructures the way Medicare reimbursements are calculated, to the debt limit have fizzled, with the leadership preferring to focus on a debt-limit demand that could potentially win broad backing in the House.

“Right now, Jesus himself couldn’t be the speaker and get 218 Republicans behind something, so I think Speaker Boehner is trying his best to come up with a plan that can get close to that,” Rep. Patrick J. Tiberi (R-Ohio), a longtime Boehner ally, said last week. “Whatever we move, there will be critics everywhere, but at the end of the day, we still have to govern.”

The individuals asked to speak anonymously to share information about internal Republican strategy. House Republicans will meet again Tuesday morning at the Capitol Hill Club to discuss the debt ceiling.

Paul Kane covers Congress and politics for the Washington Post.
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