U.S. House of Representatives

By David Lawder
WASHINGTON Fri Jan 24, 2014 1:08am EST

(Reuters) – Congressional Republicans are showing little stomach for another bruising fight over the U.S. debt limit next month, but they do want to extract some concessions in exchange for expanding the Treasury’s borrowing authority.

A senior Republican aide said House of Representatives leaders are in “listening mode” and seeking ideas from rank-and-file lawmakers.

The options range from demands for expanded offshore energy production to small tweaks in President Barack Obama’s healthcare law to approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Another idea put forth would involve overhauling federal job-training programs, an element in a House Republican jobs bill that has gotten no traction in the Senate.

“If the president is asking for a blank check, we’re not going to do that,” said Representative Luke Messer, an Indiana Republican who serves on the House Budget Committee.

“I won’t support a debt limit increase unless it is partnered with policies that will either reduce the deficit or help grow the economy,” he added.

Obama has vowed not to negotiate over raising the debt limit, arguing that it is Congress’ responsibility to ensure that its spending obligations can be paid.

After last fall’s government shutdown battle and two subsequent bipartisan fiscal deals, Republicans are focusing on demands that they believe Democrats might support. For example, a proposal to get rid of a tax on medical devices has garnered Democratic support in the past, though attaching it to the debt limit legislation would make it more controversial.

Representative Tom Price, a conservative Republican from Georgia, said he would also like to see some other adjustments to Obamacare considered as part of the debt limit debate, including to the so-called “risk corridor” provision that compensates insurers if they wind up with an especially unhealthy and costly mix of customers under the program.

“Nobody is interested, on our side of the aisle at least, in bailing out insurance companies. I would hope that the president isn’t interested in bailing out insurance companies, and (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid isn’t, so maybe there’s some common ground there,” said Price, who is a physician.

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