Even a deal cut by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is no fait accompli in the House.
Many House Republicans are dismissing the terms of the deal McConnell is reportedly close to striking with Reid, and senior lawmakers are keeping their options open for amending the Senate deal or sending over their own bill.
“It’s less robust than I had expected,” says Representative Steve Stivers, a top ally to Speaker John Boehner, about the reported terms of the Senate deal. Asked if he’d seen anything in the deal that appeals to the GOP, Representative James Lankford, the fifth-ranking member of House leadership, says “not that I’ve seen so far, no.”
As for going on offense with their own bill, GOP whip Kevin McCarthy says “it’s always an option.”
Boehner will brief his colleagues at an all-important House conference meeting tomorrow morning. In deciding whether to spurn McConnell, a key issue for Boehner is whether he can get his conference to back something that’s sufficiently modest it’s seen as a plausible compromise by Democrats and the public.
“That is the challenge, is to figure out how to thread the needle between getting any 218 votes here that we can also get whatever it is closed to passing or being seen as reasonable on the other side of the Capitol,” Stivers says.
Timing may play an unexpectedly critical role. If the Senate begins proceeding on a debt-ceiling bill tomorrow, it could be as long as Saturday before it passes that chamber, given its procedural rules. In that time, during which the debt-ceiling deadline will come and go, Boehner could go on offense.
“I suspect a lot of it has to do with when it gets over here,” says Representative Mike Simpson, another Boehner ally, about the House’s plans.
As far as the Senate deal, the one provision that’s being sold as a concession for the GOP — regarding income verification for the recipients of Obamacare subsidies — is drawing particular ire for how pitiful it is as a Republican prize.
The verification requirement is actually in the health-care law but was waived by the Obama administration, which established what critics have dubbed the “honor system” for reporting income to determine eligibility.
“I thought that was part of the original law. I thought that was common sense, should have been part of what they implemented. It was just kind of bizarre that they took it out. No, I don’t see it as a win,” says Representative Pat Tiberi.
House Republicans are also keen on reviewing the actual text of the provision amid rumors it may have been severely watered down.