House Republicans to Meet Next Week to Plot Debt Ceiling Strategy

Posted May 7, 2013 at 11:18am

House Republicans announced Tuesday a special two-hour conference meeting to be held next week to discuss the way ahead on debt ceiling negotiations.

The meeting is scheduled for the afternoon of May 15 in the Capitol, and members will be able to sound off on what posture they believe leadership should take in negotiations with Democrats on whether to raise the debt limit, according to an email announcement obtained by CQ Roll Call.

The meeting is being held “to begin the discussion with members about the best way to increase the debt limit consistent with the Boehner rule,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio.

The so-called Boehner rule, which has been House Republicans’ starting point in debt limit negotiations, states that any increase in the debt limit has to be accompanied by equal or greater spending reductions or entitlement changes.

The meeting is scheduled for four days before the expiration of the current debt limit extension, but the Treasury Department has the flexibility to move funds around to defer default for a time. Republicans believe that could buy Congress until the end of the summer or later to approve an extension.

Republicans are eager to concoct a solution that avoids default — or at least the appearance of default that could be politically harmful — while also satisfying their rank and file’s desire for spending reductions.

But many members realize that discretionary spending has been cut thin already and leaves little room for more reductions. As a result, the idea has surfaced to tie a debt ceiling increase to a tax overhaul, although the logistics have yet to be worked out and leadership is not necessarily in favor.

The House is voting this week on a bill that would allow the Treasury secretary to pay interest on debt and deficits with incoming tax revenue in case the debt ceiling is breached. Democrats are unlikely to support the measure.