The strategy is a stark reversal from 2011, when the new House Republican majority pushed a partisan debt standoff that led to a historic downgrade in the nation's credit rating. Republicans bore the brunt of public blame for both the downgrade and last year's 16-day government shutdown.
The latest Republican approach reflects the diminished influence of hard-line conservatives and concern about another self-inflicted political wound before the midterm election.
Charting a more careful path this time, House Speaker
In previous battles, Republicans sought to mollify small-government conservatives by linking their support for a debt ceiling increase to slashing government spending. Now GOP leaders are focused on using the must-pass debt limit legislation to put political pressure on Democrats by attaching less-divisive proposals that might be difficult to oppose in an election year.
But Republican leaders have also signaled that they would not risk a government default, suggesting that they would back away from even modest conditions if pressed.
Boehner warned that if Republicans failed to unite around a proposal that can pass without Democratic votes, they risked having to simply accept a "clean" debt increase. The federal government's authority to continue borrowing expires Friday. Treasury Secretary
Republicans emerged from Tuesday's discussion all but resigned to the new strategy. Lawmakers said there appeared to be a greater recognition within the party that any proposal would have to be far more modest than in the past.
"We can talk about the land of glitter and unicorns all you want," said Rep.
By Tuesday afternoon, party leaders were gauging support for one option: to raise the debt limit for a full year in return for striking an
But that idea was complicated by an estimate Tuesday from the nonpartisan
Other options were also being considered but had yet to gain traction.
Key conservatives expressed frustration at what they saw as an inevitable vote that would yield none of the budget cuts they have sought. Some are advising party leaders to simply offer a clean debt limit increase, with no demands attached, and shift to new battles.
"They're just going to go through the motions anyway, and then whatever ideas conservatives put out there are going to be blamed for whatever standoff" occurs, said Rep.
Even as they suggested that course, both congressmen said they would not vote for a clean bill.
Their resignation was a far cry from the GOP's campaigns just a few years ago. Fresh from the 2010 midterm election that delivered Republicans control of the House, many new GOP lawmakers entered Congress vowing to fulfill their campaign promises not to raise the debt ceiling without extracting steep budget reductions. The "Boehner Rule" emerged as a new Republican mantra: $1 of spending cuts for every new dollar of borrowing allowed.
That arithmetic became the foundation for the 2011 deal that ended the first debt ceiling showdown. But it also proved untenable.
The shutdown, in particular, was a learning experience for Republicans; they recognized that it distracted attention from the troubled rollout of the Affordable Care Act, a story that soon consumed the public's attention and put Democrats on the defensive.
"I believe the whole conference has learned a lot of lessons since the shutdown," said Rep.
Democratic leaders said they would wait to see what the House could approve, but warned Republicans against another debt showdown.
"Instead of sliding into another knock-down, drag-out fight, why don't we skip the crisis this time?" Senate Majority Leader