Wed., 9:32 pm: House GOP struggles on looming debt limit hike

WASHINGTON – House Republican leaders are struggling to devise a way forward on must-do legislation to increase the government’s borrowing cap.

GOP leaders have concluded that two of the top ideas to attach to the controversial legislation to build GOP support simply won’t work, so now they’re exploring another idea: repealing a recent cut to the pensions of working age retirees of the military.

GOP leaders had polled their members to see if they would vote to increase the debt limit if language requiring approval of the Keystone XL pipeline or repeal of a provision of so-called Obamacare were attached as sweeteners. But aides said there are too many Republicans who vow to oppose any increase in the borrowing cap.

The idea of repealing the military pension cut – a 1 percentage point cut in the cost-of-living increase for retirees under the age of 62 – appears aimed at winning the support of both Democrats and GOP conservatives. It passed the House in December with relatively little notice but was blasted by many Senate Republicans. Veterans groups are pressuring lawmakers to repeal it and have won supporters in both parties.

President Barack Obama says he won’t permit Republicans to use the debt limit as an engine to carry GOP priorities. Two debt limit increases were enacted last year with only modest add-ons like a provision forcing Senate Democrats to pass a budget.

GOP leaders like House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, promise that there won’t be an economy-rattling, first-ever default on U.S. obligations. He’s tempering expectations that the GOP might be able to extract much in exchange for an increase in the government’s borrowing cap.

“The goal here is to increase the debt ceiling. Nobody wants to default on our debt,” Boehner said Tuesday. “But while we’re doing this, we ought to do something about keeping jobs in the economy, about the drivers of our debt.”