Newest GOP debt-ceiling demand: Undoing cuts to military benefits that they agreed to two months ago

A worthy cause, but the real cause here is saving face. After the Keystone/ObamaCare bailout “demands” imploded, they needed a back-up that would/could/should appeal to the entire caucus. They don’t want to give in to Obama and Reid by doing a clean debt-ceiling hike, but they may have no choice since there’s virtually nothing Boehner can get 218 Republicans to agree on by way of a new demand. Some House conservatives don’t want to vote to raise the debt ceiling no matter how much leadership sweetens the pot. Others thought Keystone wasn’t sweet enough because it looks like Obama’s going to cave on that anyway. And others thought the “risk corridor” repeal wasn’t sweet enough because, if you believe CBO, that’ll actually be a moneymaker for the feds this year. Time for Plan B, then: Let’s get rid of the cut to cost-of-living adjustments for military salaries under the Ryan/Murray budget that passed before New Year’s. More money for the troops will surely shake free 218 Republican votes and force Senate Dems into a tough floor vote on whether to accept the new demand.

Won’t it?

“Right now, Jesus himself couldn’t be the speaker and get 218 Republicans behind something, so I think Speaker Boehner is trying his best to come up with a plan that can get close to that,” said Rep. Patrick J. Tiberi (R-Ohio), a longtime Boehner ally…

Several Democratic aides, who requested anonymity in order to discuss internal matters, said House Democratic leaders will probably balk if Boehner moves ahead with the plan, since Democrats have insisted that they will not negotiate over the debt ceiling. But they did not rule out the possibility of some Democrats supporting such legislation, amid the clamor in both parties to restore the cuts.

This week, aides to Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said the Senate will soon bring forward its own legislation to restore the benefit cuts, taking up a spending bill sponsored by Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), the chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. House Republican aides said Reid’s overlap with Boehner’s potential plan is helpful, especially as Republican leaders look for a debt-limit demand that could win Democratic votes…

One key concern raised late Wednesday by House Republicans: making sure a restoration of benefits is balanced by cuts to other federal programs, in order to not have the measure be cast as a spending increase by watchdog conservative groups that are closely watching Boehner’s playbook. There have also been grumbles about whether a change to the budget deal would violate the carefully crafted terms hashed out in December by Congress’s budget chairmen, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

Reid also took a hardline “no negotiations” approach during the shutdown, you’ll recall, rejecting a bunch of House bills that would have restored funding for discrete parts of the government but not for ObamaCare. Fund everything or we’ll fund nothing, he insisted. The sole exception: He passed a bill right before the shutdown began to keep money flowing to the military so that troops wouldn’t miss a paycheck. Boehner’s counting on the same thing happening now. Both for tea partiers reluctant to approve a debt-ceiling increase and Democrats reluctant to accept any Republican demand, even if it’s a demand that they’re eventually going to act on themselves, it’s bad politics to say no to the troops. Boehner thinks, or maybe hopes, that his antagonists on either side will choke on military pay. Will they?

If Boehner can’t get 218 for this, what’s Plan C? Ye olde balanced-budget amendment, which Democrats will surely reject? Or do we just cut to the chase already and do a clean debt-ceiling hike like everyone expects? Exit quotation from WaPo: “Boehner’s inner circle acknowledged Wednesday that a clean debt-limit hike — without strings attached — could be in the offing.”