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GOP Targets Debt Limit To Force Health Care Shutdown

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WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s original plan to force a government shutdown to stop the Affordable Care Act is fizzling; but another, more dangerous tactic is starting to take shape amongst Republican leaders in the House of Representatives.

According to Reuters, Republican leaders including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) are considering using the full faith and credit of the United States government as a leverage point to defund the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

A Cantor aide said Wednesday that the nation’s debt limit, which directly impacts the nation’s credit rating, is a “good leverage point” to force action on the healthcare law, according to Reuters.

If the plan sounds familiar, it’s the exact same course of action the GOP took in 2011 in order to get more budget cuts from Democrats in the Senate and the White House. That time, Democrats eventually backed down to save the country from a devastating default.

Still, the act of taking the full faith and credit of the U.S. government hostage ended up costing the nation billions in lost jobs, lost months in the economic recovery, and a drop in the United States’ credit rating.

The theory behind the idea is simple: cancel the Affordable Care Act or the House will refuse to raise the debt limit and risk sending the U.S. into default and a global economic meltdown.

The underlying theory behind it is the Republicans think the Democrats in the Senate and White House will eventually back down and defund the bill because they don’t want to run the risk of a default and a possible global economic depression.

In the past when both parties have disagreed on a major policy, like the Medicare drug expansion or the original Medicare act; the parties would come together and enact incremental changes to make the overall bill work better for constituents.

However, in the hyper-partisan Washington of 2013, the GOP has steadfastly refused to make any changes to the law short of a complete repeal. At the same time, no plan has been offered in the House of Representatives to replace much of the health care law.

No plan has been offered to keep many of the policies that the general public likes in the ACA including: no limits on lifetime spending; no limits due to pre-exisiting conditions; allowing parents to keep their children on the insurance until 26; and other items.

Even changes that have been pitched by GOP leaders like Cantor have been pulled from consideration before they have even reached the floor of the House.

What could complicate the debt limit fight for Republicans is that Speaker of the House John Boehner said in the past that he would not allow the U.S. credit to be jeopardized again as it was in 2011. But, that may force Boehner to violate the so-called Hastert Rule which states no bill can come to the floor without support from a majority of the majority party supporting it.

Speaker Boehner has violated the rule already this year passing tax hikes and a few other bills with the help of Democratic members in the House. But if the speaker tries it again to hike the debt limit or fund the government, he’ll have to have full Democratic support and the support of a few moderate Republicans.

So, Boehner will have to make more concessions to Democrats to get their support than he may feel is necessary. Democrats can ease this problem by backing down the list of demands, but without any negotiating going on until September, there will be roughly nine days to negotiate a deal to keep the government funded.

On the debt limit fight, that crisis may be delayed as the government won’t hit the debt ceiling until later this year. Depending on when that date is, hundreds of thousands of Americans may sign up for health insurance on the new exchanges which will complicate the plan to defund the ACA.

It all sets up for a wild fall in Washington as the nation’s credit, the government’s funding, health care, and the future of the American economy all rest with a group of men and women who haven’t been able to agree on anything this year.

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