I’ve been following the rather meandering course of the House GOP on the impending debt limit increase, mainly focusing on the contradiction between the leadership’s constant assurances there will be no debt default and the membership’s casting about for a hostage.
But this I hadn’t anticipated, from the usually reliable Robert Costa at WaPo:
A new break in the GOP’s debt-ceiling strategy emerged at a private lunch on Wednesday, where House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) encouraged his allies to consider linking a restoration of recently cut military benefits with a one-year extension of the federal government’s borrowing authority.
According to two people present at the lunch and two others familiar with the session, Boehner said the maneuver would likely force Democrats to join with Republicans and also win support from conservatives, who have been upset about changes to the military’s cost-of-living benefits, which were adjusted in December.
Boehner did not endorse the idea, the sources added, but he did urge the group of more than a dozen of his loyalists to talk up the possible play with colleagues. And if the idea gains momentum, he is open to potentially bringing it to the floor, they said.
“He was very warm to it, seeing it as something that can get us out of this fix,” said one attendee, who like the others requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. “I think this could be a way for us to get through the debt ceiling, but the speaker is going to spend the next few days taking the temperature of his members.”
After years of linking the debt limit vote to proposed spending cuts (or mechanisms for forcing spending cuts, from sequestration to a constitutional balanced budget amendment), now suddenly you have Boehner talking about demanding increased spending in exchange for votes to accommodate more public debt.
Whatever else this represents, it shows Boehner being more interested in registering a “win” for his conference than in making a coherent argument for reducing both spending and debt.