WASHINGTON -- Seemingly conceding that shutting down the government in order to defund the president's health care law would be a dangerous political gamble, House Republican leadership is now looking at the idea of using the debt ceiling as a pressure point instead.
On Wednesday evening, Reuters quoted an aide to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) as saying that the need to raise the nation's debt ceiling was a "good leverage point" to force action on Obamacare.
But what type of action, exactly, would Republicans pursue? A Cantor aide told The Huffington Post that there are talks about using the debt ceiling to push for postponements or structural changes to the law, but not getting rid of the law entirely.
"Not repeal," said the aide, when asked what was in the cards. "One of many things we can pursue on debt limit [is] potentially the individual mandate delay and codifying the business mandate delay. And perhaps other aspects."
The thinking among GOP leadership is that the Obama administration opened the door to a discussion about altering the health care law when it chose to delay the employer mandate, which requires businesses with over 50 full-time employees to provide health insurance, for a year. And since Republicans were always going to pursue their legislative priorities in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, reforming Obamacare can now be part of that conversation, along with spending cuts and entitlement and tax reform.
The Cantor aide cautioned that the idea is still in the "discussion phase." Nevertheless, shifting the focus of the impending standoff from a government shutdown to the debt ceiling has raised the stakes.
Though the president is in talks with Republican senators over a larger budget deal, the Obama administration has steadfastly refused to negotiate over the debt limit, which will be hit sometime in late October or early November.
What's more, the consequences of defaulting on the nation's debt are far more dire than failing to pass a bill to fund the government. Whole agencies -- the FBI, nuclear arms inspectors, biomedical researchers -- might be forced to shut down; essential services, like aviation safety and food inspection, could stop; and financial market chaos could ensue; all because the government would not be able to pay the bills it has already racked up. The real world repercussions are major, which, politically, makes it a leverage point.