House Republican leaders were searching for votes Tuesday to pass a debt increase and stopgap spending bill, facing a rebellion within their own ranks from lawmakers who felt their latest proposal to make two small dents in Obamacare wasn’t enough of a victory.
Speaker John A. Boehner emerged from a two-hour meeting to tell reporters he’s talking with Republicans and Democrats — a sign of trouble for his plan to raise the debt and reopen the government while repealing an Obamacare tax and requiring President Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden and other top political appointees to participate in health insurance exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act.
“There have been no decisions about what exactly we will do,” Mr. Boehner said.
An hour earlier rank-and-file Republicans came out of the meeting to say their leaders had proposed taking a plan being worked on in the Senate and attaching the two Obamacare changes, and were going to put that bill on the House floor later Tuesday.
But by 11 Mr. Boehner and his chief lieutenants sounded much less certain, and several Republicans said it would be a close vote if the bill were brought to the floor.
The Nevada Democrat said he and his Republican counterpart, Sen. Mitch McConnell, had been making good progress toward a deal and for Mr. Boehner to announce his own plan was insulting.
“We felt blindsided,” Mr. Reid said.
He and Mr. McConnell have been negotiating since Saturday, but with no agreement reached yet, and the outlines of what they are discussing falls far short of what House Republicans say they can accept, which is why Mr. Boehner proposed his own alternative.
The White House has steadfastly resisted any major changes to its health law, and has rejected attaching any strings to bills to reopen the government and raise the Treasury Department’s borrowing limit, set to be breached on Thursday.
“The president has said repeatedly that members of Congress don’t get to demand ransom for fulfilling their basic responsibilities to pass a budget and pay the nation’s bills,” said White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage. “Unfortunately, the latest proposal from House Republicans does just that in a partisan attempt to appease a small group of tea party Republicans who forced the government shutdown in the first place.”