Republicans Mull Path Forward on Debt Limit

Image: John Boehner, Paul Ryan

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left, joined by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., takes reporters' questions, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, as House Republicans signaled support for a budget deal worked out yesterday between Ryan and Senate Budget Committee Chair Rep. Patty Murray, D-Wash. The budget deal was one of a few major measures left on Congress' to-do list near the end of a bruising year that has produced a partial government shutdown, a flirtation with a first-ever federal default and gridlock on President Obama's agenda. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Republicans are back to square one as it relates to how to raise the nation's debt ceiling.

Facing a rapidly-approaching deadline to raise the government's borrowing authority, GOP leaders determined they wouldn't be able to obtain the 217 votes to raise the debt limit in either of the two circumstances being considered by Republicans.

The GOP had considered two provisions to add onto the debt limit at their retreat last week: a repeal of health care reform's insurer "risk corridors," and/or a bill to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline.

According to GOP leadership aides, the Republican leadership determined Wednesday morning that they wouldn't be able to win the necessary support for either proposal with Republican votes alone. Aides said that the CBO report released yesterday which says that the insurer risk corridors would actually save $8 billion between now and 2017 did not help them garner support for that option.

Republicans will now return to the drawing board with hopes of identifying provisions that they can add to the increase that could get enough Republican and Democratic votes to increase the debt limit before the end of the month, by when Treasury Secretary Jack Lew says Congress must act.

But a group of conservatives that are saying that, while they would vote against a clean debt limit increase, the GOP leadership should just allow a vote on it anyways in an effort to avoid a drawn-out fight where Republicans retreat in the end.

These conservatives argue that forcing Democrats and President Barack Obama to bargain over the debt limit would be a fool's errand, and that Republicans would be better-suited to let Democrats advance a clean extension of the debt limit and live with the political consequences.

"The problem is I don't want a ruse, I don't want us to just claim we're fighting for something and then capitulate in the end," Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, told reporters. "The problem is we're going to tell the American people that we're fighting for all these great things and then we'll capitulate in the end, and that's what I don't want."

Rep Justin Amash, R-Mich., echoed that call yesterday, saying that "whatever ideas conservatives put out there are going to be blamed for whatever standoff (there is)."

"I wish they would do something substantive, but they're not going to," Rep Justin Amash (R-MI) told reporters yesterday, "So lets avoid the theater and just move on with it."

Republican leadership aides say that they will re-engage with members of their conference in the coming week to see what provisions could be added to pass a bill out of the House.