Boehner: ‘No Sense Picking a Fight We Can’t Win’ on Debt Limit (Updated)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted February 4, 2014 at 11:04am

Updated 12:28 p.m. | Just days away from the administration’s deadline to extend the nation’s borrowing authority, Speaker John A. Boehner told House Republicans he sees no reason to pick a fight they cannot win on the issue.  

“There’s no sense picking a fight we can’t win,” the Ohio Republican told members in a private conference meeting, according to sources in the room.  

Leadership has been looking for a plan that could draw Republican support for a debt limit increase, and Boehner urged his members to coalesce around a plan. If they do not, he warned, the Senate could move first and tack a provision to a debt limit hike that is unpopular among Republicans, such as an extension of unemployment insurance benefits.  

Boehner’s comments come on the House’s second day back in Washington, D.C., following Republicans’ annual retreat. Members discussed tacking several measures to a debt limit increase to draw Republican support, from a balanced budget amendment to a measure to spur the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to a repeal of a measure in the health care law that mitigates risk for insurance companies.  

“There’s a lot of opinions about how to deal with the debt limit. No decisions have been made,” Boehner told reporters after the conference meeting. “The goal here is to increase the debt ceiling. No one wants to default on our debt. But while we’re doing something on this we ought to do something about either jobs or the economy [or] about the drivers of our debt.”  

When asked whether any such plan could garner 218 Republican votes, Boehner said only, “We’ll see.”  

If Republicans don’t come together on something, the Republicans would have to seek Democratic votes — and Democrats continue to seek a “clean” increase.  

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew has said that Congress should act on a debt limit increase by Friday, but he also noted that the administration can take extraordinary measures to extend the deadline to as late as the end of the month.