House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., outlined a plan Friday to hold federal spending and the debt limit hostage — but not necessarily over Obamacare.
“House Republicans will demand fiscal reforms and pro-growth policies which put us on a path to balance in ten years in exchange for another increase in the debt limit,” Cantor wrote in a memo to GOP lawmakers.
With President Barack Obama vowing not to negotiate, the United States faces a default crisis a little over a month after lawmakers return.
Cantor’s threat has a somewhat different standard than the demand from Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, that any increase in the debt ceiling be accompanied by an equivalent amount of “cuts and reforms.” Boehner’s demand, known as the “Boehner rule,” was violated earlier this year when the House punted on the debt limit, but the speaker recently promised a "whale of a fight" this fall.
Cantor also said Republicans would demand Obama agree to keep the sequester in place past Sept. 30 — and slash $64 billion from the levels Obama signed months ago.
“In signing a CR at sequester levels, the President would be endorsing a level of spending that wipes away all the increases he and Congressional Democrats made while they were in charge and returns us to a pre-2008 level of discretionary spending,” Cantor said.
Whether Obama will sign such a short-term spending bill is an open question. The White House has repeatedly declined to answer whether Obama would sign a bill that lets the sequester continue. If the Senate blocks the measure, or Obama vetoes it, a partial government shutdown will ensue.
That, of course, would require Cantor to be able to actually pass such a bill through the House. And Cantor’s memo makes no mention of tying the CR to Obamacare — something scores of the GOP conference have sought.
Instead, Cantor alludes to Boehner’s strategy to chip away at the law through “a series of strategic votes.”
If that’s not enough for the rank and file, GOP leadership will either have to include Obamacare defunding in the CR and endure headlines saying they are risking a government shutdown, or they will have to woo Democrats for votes.