Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan is emerging as the key congressional Republican in negotiating with Democrats to solve Washington’s two fiscal crises with a plan that only delays efforts to defund ObamaCare, not derail them.
Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, is proposing a plan to increase the federal debt that is tied largely to simplifying the tax code, make enough changes to Medicare to offset cuts to domestic spending and defense programs and a solid promise from Senate Democrats and President Obama to continue talks about reopening the federal government.
Failure to increase the debt limit within roughly the next week would result in the country defaulting on its debt for the first time in history. The partial government shutdown started Oct. 1.
“I'm working to get a budget agreement,” Ryan told a group of conservatives meeting this weekend in Washington. “We need to completely rethink government’s role in helping the most vulnerable. … That means we can never give up on repealing and replacing ObamaCare.”
His remarks, in a video message for the Value Voters summit, were reassuring to conservatives concerned that Ryan in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed piece seemed to have abandon the idea of defunding or altogether dismantling ObamaCare as part of fiscal negotiations -- considering how hard they, led by Tea Party favorites Sens. Ted Cruz, Texas, and Mike Lee, Utah, worked to garner support for the effort.
Still, Ryan appears to have support from establishment and conservative Republicans as well as a good relationship with Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, with whom he has yet to meet on the fiscal issues but will likely negotiation with her.
House Republicans pitched a plan to the White House on Thursday night to approve a short-term debt-ceiling increase, but President Obama pushed back because it did not address the partial shutdown.
Senate Republicans are now crafting an alternate proposal that deals with both. It includes a provision dealing with ObamaCare, but is far short of what Cruz campaigned for -- and advocated with a 21-hour address on the Senate floor last month.
The Senate on Saturday planned to take up a one-year extension of the debt limit. Democratic sponsors, though, may have difficulty advancing the measure given the ongoing negotiations.
The emerging proposal comes from Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and others. It would propose a six-month extension of government spending, a repeal of the health care law's medical device tax and greater flexibility for agencies to deal with across-the-board spending cuts in effect this year.
Returning from a two-hour meeting at the White House, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Friday that the session with Obama was useful and he hoped that Senate Republicans could find a way out of the impasse.
Where the budget and debt talks go from here is unclear. Obama called House Speaker John Boehner at mid-afternoon Friday, and Michael Steel, a spokesman for the leader of House Republicans, said, "They agreed that we should all keep talking."
Jay Carney, the president's press secretary, said Obama "appreciates the constructive nature of the conversation and the proposal that House Republicans put forward. Yet, the spokesman said, "He has some concerns with it."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.