Senate Republicans fear that a House proposal involving the spending cuts mandated by sequestration will result in the rollback of their main fiscal victory of the last two years.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has another proposal to delay Obamacare while opening the government, lifting the debt limit, and retaining the sequester.
"With respect to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, our plan would delay the counterproductive tax on medical devices like pacemakers and artificial knees, but would replace the lost revenue, and, to prevent fraud, it would require income verification of individuals who apply for subsidies on the insurance exchanges," Collins said in a readout of her exchange with Obama following a meeting between Obama and Senate Republicans at the White House Friday.
Collins floated her proposal (which is co-sponsored by Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska) after House aides pitched a different plan to President Obama and White House aides Thursday night.
"It, too, would raise the debt limit and avoid a default, as part of a framework that could include easing the across-the-board cuts in exchange for reductions that Obama has supported in the past in benefit programs," according to the Associated Press. "That plan, too, seeks changes in Obamacare."
Senate Republicans doubt that Obama will agree to any entitlement program changes that would provide enough budget relief to reverse the spending cuts.
"Unless they're thinking about raising the eligibility age and means-testing Medicare and doing chained CPI and delaying Obamacare for a year, why would you want to get rid of the Budget Control Act [the law that mandated the sequester]?" a Senate Republican aide told the Washington Examiner concerning the reported House proposal. "It's the biggest spending achievement we've had in 25 years."
Republicans put Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on notice about this point a month ago. "While potentially politically expedient in the short term, it is difficult to conceive of a fiscal test by which the consideration of spending legislation for next year authorizing a funding level higher than $967 billion could be viewed as responsible," Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Penn., among others, wrote to Reid on Sept. 13, 2013.
Collins said that her "plan would give agencies greater flexibility in dealing with budget cuts known as sequestration, with appropriate congressional oversight."
Obama rejected that flexibility when Republicans offered it in February, before the spending cuts went into effect on March 1 of this year.
Spokesman Jeremy Kirkpatrick said that the "income verification" policy that Collins seeks parallels the "no subsidies without verification" bill offered by Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., which would require the Obama team to implement fraud prevention measures before disbursing health care subsidies.
The Washington Examiner's Philip Klein, who first outlined the proposal, explained that such a requirement "would effectively delay one of the central provisions of Obamacare indefinitely, because after more than three years, the government has not been able to figure out a way to meet the technological challenge of verification."