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POLITICS: PennAve

With debt limit approaching, GOP shifts focus from Obamacare defunding to winning spending reforms

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Politics,Congress,Susan Ferrechio,Debt Ceiling,PennAve,Government Shutdown

For the first time in weeks, Republicans on Wednesday put aside their talking points about defunding Obamacare, and turned their attention to the possibilities of entitlement and spending reform.

The change in hallway conversations, press conference declarations and op-ed pieces suggests that Republican goals in the debate over government funding and the debt ceiling is shifting from repealing the health care law to lowering the nation's staggering debt and deficit.

"I think that there is a developing consensus that this is a lot bigger than an Obamacare discussion," Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., told the Washington Examiner Wednesday.

Eighteen Republican House leaders will meet Thursday with President Obama and that discussion is likely to shove to the back burner efforts to defund or derail Obamacare as conservatives have demanded.

The leaders signaled a desire to move beyond the fight over Obamacare when they turned down President Obama's offer to host all 232 House Republicans at the White House and announced that only the leadership and key chairmen would attend. The move effectively excludes from the conversation the House conservatives who instigated the attack on the health care law, causing a budget stalemate and shutting down the government.

With Obamacare set aside, lawmakers and Obama are will focus on striking a deal to raise the debt ceiling so that the government doen't default on its financial obligations, an unprecedented dilemma that could spook global financial markets and throw the American economy into another tailspin.

As part of the debt ceiling deal, Republicans could secure from the White House commitments to cut government spending and reform entitlement programs.

One of the earliest indications Wednesday that Republicans were prepared to move beyond the Obamacare fight was a Wall Street Journal op-ed written by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., headlined "Here's How We Can End This Stalemate." Ryan wrote extensively about cutting spending and reforming entitlement programs without once mentioning Obamacare.

While the Obamacare defunding fight was driven by about 60 House conservatives and a handful of Republican senators, there is much broader support among Republican lawmakers for a deal that would avoid another financial crisis and help the GOP secure some of its top budget priorities.

"There has to be some discipline put into raising the debt ceiling," House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., told the Examiner. "It's only a symptom of the problem. The problem is overspending."

Even moderate Republican lawmakers who lashed out at conservatives for refusing to back a government spending bill unless it defunded Obamacare are now insisting that any debt ceiling deal include GOP priorities like entitlement reform.

"What I want is real entitlement and tax reform," said Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., an outspoken critic of conservatives whose demands led to a government shutdown that's now in its second week.

The shift away from Obamacare is something conservatives may be willing to accept now that the implementation of the already unpopular Obamacare is plagued by glitches in the online health insurance exchanges at the heart of health care reforms.

"There is a school of thought that now that no one can get health care through the exchanges, maybe we should let Obamacare crash under its own weight," Kingston said. "I think there is some discussion along that line."

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