“We’ll continue conversations with our members on how best to address the debt ceiling,” said one Republican leadership aide.
Weighing in during House votes on Thursday afternoon, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said about the debt limit strategy: “We’ve got a lot of different ideas cooking.”
Asked to clarify, McCarthy added: “We’ll have to wait and see.”
Time is running short to avoid a government default with the Treasury Department projecting the government will hit its borrowing limit on Nov. 3.
The House bill, which was proposed by the conservative Republican Study Committee, was a non-starter with Democrats who oppose linking spending cuts to a debt limit increase. Senate Republicans also opposed the bill because it would have forced changes to the budget process.
House leaders whipped the bill on Wednesday and found it lacked support with many Republicans publicly opposing the proposal, including some RSC members.
“It’s just being sprung on us at the last minute,” RSC member Tom Reed (R-NY) said on Wednesday. “I have some serious concerns about the path they want to bring us down.”
A different leadership aide said the bill was an opportunity to “take the pulse of the conference” as part of an effort to assess different options for increasing the debt limit. Democrats have been demanding that Republican leaders allow a vote on a bill that would increase the borrowing limit with out any additional policy changes.
It also remains unclear that a clean debt ceiling bill could pass, even with the support of Democrats, because so few Republicans would vote for the legislation.
“I couldn’t vote for a clean debt limit increase, there would have to be something else with it,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a member who often seeks compromise, said Thursday. “This is the president blackmailing us.”
Democrats and some centrist Republicans said the best solution is for leaders to bring a clean debt ceiling bill to the floor with leaders taking the first votes to give cover to reluctant members.
“There’s a way to get this done,” said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.). “Whip the vote, have the leaders go up first, followed by the committee chairmen and followed by the members of the Ways and Means Committee and that’s a start.”
The Senate was not expected to pass the RSC bill, but it could have served as a starting point if it was able to get through the House.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) noted on Wednesday that the Senate could amend whatever the House passed and send it back to the lower chamber before the debt limit deadline.
Senate leaders said Tuesday that they will not move legislation of their own and will instead wait for the House to prove it can pass a borrowing increase of any kind.
“We’re going to wait and see how the House deals with that issue and we’ll respond accordingly,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday.
If the House does not vote on Friday on a debt ceiling bill, it will leave Congress with less than a week and a half to address the issue before the Nov. 3 deadline
Senate Republican Conference Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters on Tuesday that it would take the Senate about a week to complete their portion of the work, leaving very little time for the House to act.
Bob Costa contributed to this report.