Oof: Boehner drops Keystone/ObamaCare debt-ceiling demands because he can't find 218 votes

He can’t find 218 Republicans to support approving the Keystone pipeline or repealing the “risk corridor,” i.e. bailout, provision in ObamaCare? What?

House Leadership has pulled the plug on proposals that would tie raising the debt ceiling with approval of the Keystone XL pipeline or eliminating the so-called risk corridors in the Affordable Care Act because these plans couldn’t reach 218 votes, according to a House aide with knowledge of the talks.

The debt limit has been suspended through Saturday, and the Treasury Department estimates it has enough extraordinary measures to last through the end of the month.

Tea partiers like Raul Labrador and Justin Amash grumbled yesterday that the leadership should go ahead and drop its “demands” now since we all know they’ll end up doing so before the debt ceiling is raised anyway. This is “theater,” said Amash. Why go through the motions when a clean debt-ceiling hike is a fait accompli? Some of them will vote no on a debt-ceiling hike no matter what sweeteners are attached, but especially if those sweeteners are a sham. More ominous is the possibility that it’s not tea partiers who are holding out but rather other Republicans who’ve had their arms twisted by business interests and the insurance industry muscle on K Street. If the “risk corridor” is repealed and insurers end up collectively over budget on their new ObamaCare exchange plans, they’d be on the hook for all of their losses without help from Uncle Sam. There may be some nucleus of House Republicans who are unwilling to put them in that position. And if there’s a nucleus opposed to that, maybe there’s a nucleus opposed to repealing O-Care if/when the House finally ends up in a position to make that happen.

There’s only one man who can save the “risk corridor” repeal effort now.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., will make the case today that House Republicans can use the looming borrowing breach as leverage to start to unwind ObamaCare. Rubio, the lead proponent of a move to block insurance industry bailouts built into the law, will testify this morning before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about his plan. House Speaker John Boehner has said he is open to the idea of making the debt lift contingent on blocking potentially billions of dollars in handouts to insurance firms grappling with the fallout from ObamaCare. But Boehner won’t go ahead unless Republicans are united behind the plan. That’s why Rubio’s sales pitch today is a pretty big deal.

Rubio’s led the charge in Congress on this since November but has yet to see a vote on it. Getting it attached to a debt-ceiling hike in the House would be progress, sort of, in that it would force red-state Democrats to take a position. But it won’t pass, and then it’ll be summarily dumped before the inevitable clean debt-ceiling hike, just as Labrador and Amash predict. If Rubio’s serious about killing any potential bailouts, today’s the day to convince House Republicans that it’s worth going to the mat on it. It’s a test of his clout and his leadership, says Ben Domenech:


If Boehner can’t get to 218 on an essentially meaningless vote to repeal the “risk corridor,” for a bill that everyone knows will be stripped out, what are the odds that he or Rubio can convince 218 on a meaningful one?