Days before the nation hits its debt ceiling deadline October 17, conservatives are beginning to abandon their strategy of demanding concessions for a vote that prevents a U.S. default. Even as Republicans downplay the consequences of missing this deadline, Heritage Action and other influential conservatives have urged a new strategy that keeps Obamacare out of the debt. Now, they want Republicans to stay focused on keeping the government closed over Obamacare but relent on a debt ceiling increase.
On Wednesday morning, Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham conceded, “We should raise the debt limit.” “We’d give the speaker some flex on a short-term debt limit increase,” Needham said, though he went on to say that Heritage will oppose a budget continuing resolution that does not defund the health care law. “We’d be opposed to anything that would be considered a long-term debt limit increase, anything that goes beyond the 2014 election.”
Erick Erickson echoed that point on RedState, urging the GOP not to use the debt ceiling as leverage in its anti-Obamacare crusade.”Conservatives need to push the debt ceiling fight off the front burner to after Christmas,” he said, continuing, “This would buy us some time to finish the fight to defund Obamacare and set us up well to fight the next long-term debt limit increase to the death by removing some of the President’s scare tactics.”
At the same time, Reps. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Eric Cantor (R-VA) have floated a debt ceiling agreement that does not demand a full Obamacare repeal. In separate op-eds, Ryan suggested the healthcare debate can be pushed off, while Cantor made no mention of it. Needham responded today that the “attention of Republicans and conservatives needs to be back on Obamacare and not on other ways out of this situation,” so the GOP can focus on dragging out the shutdown.
Koch Industries, the conglomerate owned by conservatives Charles and David Koch, has made its own dramatic departure. Despite donations to Heritage and active Tea Party groups, Koch publicly dissociated itself from the effort, saying the company “has not taken a position on the legislative tactic of tying the continuing resolution to defunding Obamacare.” According to NBC News, Koch officials have privately told lawmakers that a default would be economic “disaster.”
The Kochs and Heritage are among the groups that helped elect the very congressman who engineered this crisis.
Previously, those on the right advised House GOP to conflate the debt ceiling and shutdown talks in their larger effort to defund the healthcare law. Heritage has been the lead actor in this push, both in threatening a default and the government shutdown. DeMint earlier told the New York Times he thought Republicans were not aggressive enough in linking the debt ceiling to Obamacare. “They’ve been through a series of C.R.s and debt limits,” he said, “and all the time there was discussion of ‘O.K., we’re not going to fight the Obamacare fight, we’ll do it next time.”‘
The strategy to make a debt ceiling vote explicitly about Obamacare was highlighted by the Wall Street Journal, Washington Examiner, and National Review. But business leaders and economists warn of a global economic meltdown if the U.S. passes its October 17 deadline.
Some House Republicans indicate they’re now willing to accept a short-term debt limit increase, while they force talks over Obamacare and other issues.