Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a member of Speaker John Boehner’s leadership team, announced on NOW Thursday that the GOP should use the debt ceiling, rather than a government shutdown, to strip funding from the Affordable Care Act.
“Budget agreements around debt ceiling increases are pretty common,” Cole told Alex Wagner. “That's actually when they happen.”
When pressed on whether he planned to use the debt ceiling to defund Obamacare, Cole admitted, “I think you should put them all together. That is we've got an end to the fiscal year September 30th, we’ve got a debt ceiling in October, [and] we’ve got the sequester as the continuing legal reality. I think what the Speaker is trying to do—and I think appropriately—is to get a window of opportunity between the end of the fiscal year and the end of the year, probably middle of December let’s say, [and] in that period with all three of those elements on the table, negotiate a much larger package.”
Cole’s comments offered the best window yet into the Republicans’ negotiating strategy. By passing a continuing resolution funding the government through December, and perhaps a temporary debt limit extension expiring around the same time, Republicans can threaten to shut down the government and default on the country’s debt at the same time. By offering to undo portions of the sequester—with its devastating cuts to both defense spending and basic government services—Republicans hope that Democrats will agree to other cuts and undo provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
Unfortunately the best laid plans oft go astray. John Boehner’s failure yesterday to corral enough Republican wacko birds to even bring a continuing resolution to the floor suggests that the Speaker may have a tough time keeping the kids quiet for long enough get what they want.