House GOP already planning for next Obamacare fight

Led by John Boehner and Eric Cantor, the House GOP is preparing for an impending fight over the debt ceiling.

Story highlights

  • Next fight with president will be over debt ceiling
  • Republicans seek to maintain united front in opposition to Obamacare and other issues
  • Debt ceiling bill will include laundry list of GOP priorities on entitlements, taxes, energy, jobs
  • Adding a mix of controversial items increases the threat of a default on U.S. debt

Two hours before the House passed a short term spending bill that defunded Obamacare - something Senate Democrats said they will reject next week - House Republicans met to plan their next attack on President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

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House Speaker John Boehner and other top leaders outlined a lengthy GOP wish list of items they plan to attach to legislation raising the nation's debt limit, including a delay of Obamacare.

"This increase will also contain a number of important pro-growth economic policies, health care and non-health care reforms in addition to a one year delay in Obamacare," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced on the House floor.

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After a rough week that started out with messy GOP infighting about strategy to deal with the government funding bill, the goal is to look ahead to the debt ceiling fight and keep Republicans on the same page.

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"We have a good strategy. I think we're on stride and we're going to keep this fight going throughout this entire episode. The fight to delay Obamacare doesn't end next week. It keeps rolling on until we get it," Rep Paul Ryan told reporters after the meeting.

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In order to avoid another internal fight, GOP leaders crafted a debt ceiling bill that essentially has something for everyone in the Republican conference.

In addition to the delay of Obamacare, the measure will include provisions for major tax reforms, and changes to entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.

Ryan told reporters it will be modeled on a budget - it won't include specific changes to the tax code, but it will give instructions to both the House and Senate to pass tax reform by a specific deadline.

GOP aides declined to say what specific changes to entitlement programs would be in the bill, but congressional Republicans have pushed to change the way Social Security benefits are adjusted for inflation, effectively lowering annual increases for Social Security recipients.

The measure would also include approval of the Keystone pipeline, a measure the Obama administration has held up for five years due to possible environmental concerns.

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GOP members also want to approve more offshore energy production, arguing both these policies would boost job creation.

House Republicans also plan to attach several provisions to roll back regulations on coal plants and other industries. These are bills the House has passed before, but have failed to move in the Democratic-led Senate.

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President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats insist they will not negotiate on a measure to authorize additional borrowing authority for the Treasury Department, which is projected to run out sometime in October or early November.

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They argue Congress should not risk the nation's credit limit with another down to the wire brawl over major policy issues like health care and taxes.

Obama and Boehner spoke on Friday, an aide to the speaker said.

"The president called the speaker this evening to tell him he wouldn't negotiate with him on the debt limit. Given the long history of using debt limit increases to achieve bipartisan deficit reduction and economic reforms, the speaker was disappointed but told the president that the two chambers of Congress will chart the path ahead. It was a brief call," the aide said.

But Boehner and other House Republicans say Obama himself agreed to add other measures to reduce the deficit in the last major negotiation over the debt limit.

"We're going to put a lot of things on the table. And one thing you'll see is six times since 1985 have the president and Congress negotiated the debt ceiling. The last time was August 2011, and that was Barack Obama. So, to say it can't happen or won't happen just simply isn't true. It's happened a number of times," Louisiana Republican Rep. John Fleming said.

Georgia Republican Rep Tom Graves called the fight on the stopgap spending bill and Obamacare "one step of many" but was reluctant to endorse the GOP package unveiled on the debt ceiling, telling reporters "I think we're moving in the right direction."

This strategy to allow House Republicans to pile on to the debt ceiling bill a host of major policy items is designed to keep the party unified -temporarily at least.

But delaying Obamacare for a year and rolling back Obama administration regulations are non-starters with Senate Democrats, and not the debate they want to have on a must-pass bill that the credit markets are monitoring.

On the heels of the spending fight House Republican leaders want to try to force the White House and Senate Democrats to come to the table on the debt ceiling.

But adding a mix of controversial items to the bill only increases the threat of a default, and ensures Capitol Hill will be tied up for the next several weeks, if not months, with partisan fighting that could ripple through the financial markets.