House Republican leaders are at a loss about how to move a debt limit increase.
A GOP leadership aide told CQ Roll Call that after an informal canvas of the House Republican Conference through member meetings and phone calls over the past week, leaders concluded that the top two sweeteners they were considering could not attract enough Republican support to pass a debt ceiling hike.
The conference has been discussing attaching a measure that would repeal a section of the Affordable Care Act that helps insurance companies avoid risk or another that would spur the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Neither turned up enough support to pass the extension of the nation's borrowing authority. (See our related story .) Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio met with his top leadership team Wednesday morning to discuss the next steps, but leaders and staff do not yet have a plan for how to proceed, aides said.
"We are mulling other options and trying to figure out the best way forward on this," a leadership aide said.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said that Congress must extend the debt limit by the end of February or risk default.
Boehner and leaders have said they intend to do so, but their rank and file has insisted that they need to attach Republican legislative priorities to the bill in order for them to support the policy. The problem is that between members' far-flung demands, there is no consensus about one add-on that could bring the conference together.
Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana, meanwhile, said he would like to see a fix to Medicare's sustainable growth rate, which helps control the program's spending on physician services. And Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said that he and others would prefer a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
Democrats have said that they refuse vote for a debt limit increase that includes what they see as extraneous measures.
"They obviously were not able to coalesce around a strategy. They better get moving because the clock is ticking," Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said of Republicans. "This is simple: pay your bills on time. It should be a straight up or down vote."
Matt Fuller contributed to this report.