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Topics: Obamacare

Fate of Senate deal will rest with undecided House Republicans

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While the Senate is inches away from a compromise plan to raise the nation's borrowing limit and reopen the federal government, the House has yet to decide whether to back the plan, with fiscal conservatives either undecided or leaning against supporting it.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, have been communicating about the Senate deal, which would fund the government until Jan. 15 and raise the debt ceiling until Feb. 15, according the Senate and and House Republican aides.

The plan, which could emerge as early as Tuesday, would also tinker around the edges of Obamacare, potentially delaying the 2.3 percent medical device tax and ensuring income verification for people seeking health insurance subsidies from the federal government.

The budget's funding level would be set at $986 billion, the level mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 or so-called sequester. The Senate deal would require Congress to pass a long-term budget plan by Dec. 15, a month before the Jan. 15 implementation of the 2014 sequester that would automatically take place under the law.

A Boehner aide emphasized late Monday that while the House leadership is aware of the deal, they don't necessarily support it. At least not yet.

Boehner is scheduled to meet with his Republican rank and file early Tuesday, where he's expected to tell them that if they don't like the Senate deal they'll need to come up with something else that can pass quickly. The debt limit clock runs out Thursday, the day Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told Congress he will run out of money without greater borrowing authority.

Senators told the Washington Examiner the deal could require that the House vote first.

No matter which chamber takes the first step, many House Republicans Monday night said they wanted to hear the details and see what the Senate can pass before deciding whether to support it.

Some of the more fiscally conservative members in both the House and Senate said they wouldn't back the developing deal because it does not make spending reforms to balance the budget or reductions in entitlement spending, but rather pushes them off until a bigger budget deal is cut later.

"No deal is better than a bad deal," Sen. Joe Barton, R-Texas, told the Examiner.

Barton said the plan appears to be "kicking the can down the road" on spending reforms and he believes Boehner won't even bring the Senate proposal to the floor for a vote.

"I hope to hear that Republican leaders are going to hold the line," Barton said.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said he would likely oppose the deal as well.

"We have a really big problem, $17 trillion in debt," Paul said. "Something significant needs to be done to that to convince me that we should raise the debt ceiling," even on a short term basis.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said House Republicans would likely unite behind the deal, particularly if the GOP leadership backs it and the funding level sticks to the $986 billion sequester level.

"And that's probably the key part," Cole said of the funding levels. "Democrats can hardly stand that. That encourages both sides to negotiate and I certainly would support something like that."

Other conservative Republicans took a wait-and-see approach.

"I'd have to see a lot more about it," House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., said. "The devil is in the details."

"We don't even know if this deal is acceptable to Republicans, yet," added House Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash.

But Hastings and other Republicans are eager to pass something that reopens the government, which will have been closed 15 days on Tuesday.

Some Republicans are also anxious about missing Thursday's deadline on the debt ceiling, which could rattle financial markets and result in a lower credit rating for the nation.

A Senate-passed deal would add to the pressure on the House, Hastings said.

"That always does," he said.

Complicating the negotiations is the fact that both parties know they are working at opposite purposes.

Democrats want the budget talks that will be part of the deal to reverse the sequester cuts, while Republicans want to keep the sequester and add additional spending reforms.

As a result, there is a lot of mistrust, particularly among Republicans, about what the deal will ultimately yield when it comes to reducing the debt.

"Any talk of busting the sequester caps is a non-starter," Rep. John Fleming, R-La., said.

This story was first published 8:00 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14, 2013.

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