Morning Action: House GOP Meets to Discuss Debt Limit Options

DEBT CEILING.  Some Republican lawmakers are considering tying the debt ceiling increase to stopping the “Obamacare bailout” for insurance companies (sub. req’d):

Republicans are considering holding up an increase in the debt ceiling in order to stop what they call an “Obamacare bailout” for insurance companies, but they are not yet advertising whether they plan to move forward with that approach.

House GOP members expressed support for the idea during a retreat last week as they discussed tying a one-year increase in the nation’s borrowing limit to repealing the temporary “risk corridors” provision in the health care law (PL 111-148PL 111-152). But repeal would not sit well with either the insurance industry or the Obama administration.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and conservative groups have emerged as the main advocates of killing the risk corridors section of the law. The program, little noticed until the GOP recently started labeling it a “bailout,” requires insurers to pay money into the Treasury if their earnings surpass certain thresholds, while the government covers some of their losses if the opposite scenario occurs.

The House GOP is meeting to discuss the debt ceiling this morning:

Several House members told The Washington Post on Monday that Republican leaders have narrowed their list of possible debt-limit strategies to two options: trading a one-year extension for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, or trading a one-year extension for repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s risk corridors.

Both plans, which were first discussed last week at the House GOP’s annual retreat in Cambridge, Md., will be debated further Tuesday morning, when House Republicans meet at the Capitol. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) is said to be open to either approach, as long as it can win heavy GOP support.

AMNESTY.  Here’s why amnesty is a bad idea, and particularly, a bad idea for the Republican Party:

There are two potential outcomes for engaging in negotiations [that] are political losers for the GOP.

One scenario has nothing passing.

The chances of Democrats finally conceding to a “security force first, non-amnesty approach” is tiny, mostly because “amnesty”-first hasn’t just been incidental to the progressive’s immigration reform movement, it’s the idea powering it.

Another scenario, of course, is that Republicans believe they can avoid this fate and pull together enough support to join Democrats and pass something.

Even so, the GOP brand is unlikely to garner the credit Democrats keep assuring everyone it will. 

FARM BILL.  The last food stamp and farm bill vote in the Senate is set for Tuesday (sub. req’d):

The farm bill overcame a key procedural hurdle in the Senate on Monday, indicating a quick path to the president’s desk before the end of the week.

Senators voted, 72-22, to invoke cloture, or limit debate, on the conference report accompanying the farm bill (HR 2642). Sixty vote were required to invoke cloture.

The measure would authorize nearly $1 trillion for agricultural programs and nutrition assistance for the next five years.

A vote on sending the legislation to the president is scheduled for 2:15 p.m. Tuesday.

KEYSTONE.  Transporting oil by pipeline has been found to emit less carbon than transporting it by rail (sub. req’d):

The State Department’s final environmental study of the Keystone XL pipeline avoided making overt assertions about the relative safety of shipping oil by pipeline rather than rail, though calculations of project alternatives in the report suggest train shipments could have a greater detrimental impact on the environment.

The final environmental-impact statement for the proposed pipeline found that three alternative scenarios involving rail transport would emit tens of thousands of metric tons more carbon pollution per year at minimum than Keystone would in operation.

If trains were to transport the heavy crude directly from Canada to the Gulf Coast refineries the proposed Keystone XL route is intended to serve, they would produce nearly 42 percent more carbon dioxide emissions than the pipeline. A rail and barge shipment scenario would reduce the carbon impact to an estimated 28 percent difference over Keystone.


This Week in Congress: February 3 — 7


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