House GOP Abandons Plans To Tie Debt Ceiling To Keystone, Obamacare 'Insurance Bailout'

02/05/2014 12:43 pm ET | Updated Feb 06, 2014

WASHINGTON -- House Republicans are abandoning plans to link a debt ceiling increase to the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline or a repeal of the risk corridors provision in the Affordable Care Act, a GOP leadership aide confirmed to The Huffington Post.

"Following informal conversations with a broad range of members, it is clear we cannot get 218 Republican members to support a debt limit increase along with either Keystone or the insurance company bailout," the aide said. "We're exploring a range of other options."

While a formal offer had not been made in which a debt ceiling hike was tied to Keystone or Obamacare's risk corridors provision, those were two of the more popular proposals to emerge from a House Republican retreat last week. The latter was dealt a significant blow Tuesday when a Congressional Budget Office report found that a repeal of the risk corridors piece of Obamacare would actually increase the deficit by $8 billion over three years.

In general, congressional Republicans seem wary of pursuing another showdown over the debt limit after last fall's government shutdown, when the GOP saw its poll numbers plummet to record lows. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) reportedly told his members in a private meeting Tuesday that there was "no sense picking a fight" they couldn't win.

While there aren't 218 Republican votes for a clean debt limit either, even some of the House's most conservative members said they didn't want to put up a fight for nothing.

"I don't want a ruse, I don't want us to just claim we're fighting for something and then capitulate in the end," Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) said at a "Conversations with Conservatives" event Wednesday.

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) also said that while he hoped for something substantive out of the debt limit debate, it was best to "avoid the theater and just move on with it," according to NBC's Frank Thorp.

UPDATE: 4:55 p.m. -- An alternative debt ceiling strategy emerged Wednesday afternoon, when Boehner reportedly urged members to consider tying a one-year debt ceiling hike to the restoration of military benefits that were cut last year.

The Washington Post reports that Boehner proposed the idea during a private lunch with allies at the Capitol, although he did not formally endorse it.

A House GOP leadership aide declined to comment on the report.

Military costs-of-living benefits were cut as part of the Murray-Ryan budget deal in December, a move that left many Republicans dissatisfied and seeking a resolution. Senate Democratic leaders are also weighing an amendment that would address the military COLA, but as part of their bid to extend unemployment benefits.

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