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Boehner's debt-limit gamble

The GOP leadership's latest plan might not even attract enough Republican votes to pass.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 10, 2013, following a Republican strategy session, and the release of President Barack Obama's proposed fiscal 2014 federal budget.  (AP Photo/J....
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 10, 2013, following a Republican strategy session,...

This is what happens when you've lost the war—but insist on another battle anyway.

Badly burned by the shutdown, House Republicans know they can't afford to risk another fiasco over the debt ceiling. But the party's leadership is still refusing to accept the idea that the GOP will simply allow the government to pay its own bills.

So what does John Boehner decide to do? Come up with a plan that's so watered down it actually reverses spending cuts and does nothing to improve the country's fiscal future, prompting so much ire from conservatives there's no certainty that it will pass.

At a closed-door caucus meeting on Monday, the GOP leadership laid out a proposal to raise the debt limit through March 2015, and attached a repeal of military pension cuts. The $6 billion spending increase would be offset by sequestration's Medicare providers another year, so the 2% cut wouldn't be phased out until 2024, according to NBC News. 

The idea behind Boehner's plan is to put Democrats in a tough spot by daring them to oppose pension increases for military veterans. At the same time, it's meant to appease conservatives by making sure to offset the spending hikes and getting something for raising the country's borrowing limit.

But Democrats know they have the upper hand in this fight, with rank-and-file Republicans already admitting they have no leverage. They'll continue to demand a clean debt ceiling increase. And they're moving forward with their own plan to undo the military pension cuts anyway: A Democratic Senate bill on the issue unanimously cleared a key procedural hurdle, 94-0, on Monday.

Republicans, for their part, also seem to hate Boehner's strategy for failing to stop the "runaway spending"—the purported reason for negotiating over the debt ceiling in the first place. One GOP member told NBC News that only 40-50 House Republicans were likely to support the leadership's plan, requiring major support from Democrats for it to pass. Hearing the resistance from caucus, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) reportedly stood before the room and yelled, "What kind of team is this?!"

House Republicans are under pressure to act before they break for a two-week recess on Wednesday, as the country will start risking the possibility of default shortly after they return. But the GOP leaderhip's latest move doesn't seem like it will be enough to make anybody happy.