Debt Ceiling Roundup

The Republican Party is “in chaos.” Boehner is trying to whip his crew into shape while the Tea Party contingent urges supporters to pressure House Republicans to oppose Boehner’s latest plan, which got bad news yesterday from the Congressional Budget Office: It will save far less money than claimed — and far less than Reid’s plan will save:

The Congressional Budget Office released a report Wednesday morning that credits the Senate bill with reducing budget deficits by about $2.2 trillion through 2021, nearly three times the $850 billion credited to the Boehner bill on Tuesday.

William Kristol gives the children a stern lecture: Vote for the Boehner plan because the most important thing is to deny Pres. Obama a political victory. What’s hateful to Democrats is excellent for Republicans. What Americans want — and poll after poll has shown that large (and growing) majorities want Congress to compromise and pass a bill that includes both spending cuts and tax increases and/or other sources of revenue — does not matter at all.

Steve Benen takes note of a revealing interview with Boehner on Laura Ingraham’s radio show:

One line in particular stood out:

A large number of conservative Republicans are opposing Boehner’s proposal, arguing it does not go far enough in reducing government spending.

But Boehner said he couldn’t understand why any Republicans would position themselves with Democrats opposing his plan.

“Barack Obama hates it, Harry Reid hates it, Nancy Pelosi hates it,” he said, naming off the Democratic leadership.

Now, at a certain level, it makes sense that the House Speaker would try to rally his side by leveraging partisan feelings. Boehner probably figures Republicans will be more likely to support a plan that Democrats “hate.”

But let’s not lose sight of the larger context here. The United States is in the midst of a crisis of Republicans’ making, and a potentially catastrophic deadline is just days away. We have a Republican-led House, a Democratic-led Senate, and a Democratic White House, so the nation will need a solution that can generate approval from all three institutions.

Speaker Boehner, meanwhile, isn’t just abandoning the search for a bipartisan solution; he’s publicly bragging about pushing a plan he knows isn’t a bipartisan solution.

Ben Affleck did not take kindly to House Republicans using a scene from his film The Town in which Affleck’s character tries to enlist a friend to “hurt some people” he has a grudge against. The GOP lawmakers used the film “as a motivational vignette to encourage members to back Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) debt ceiling plan.” Affleck remarked that it was a bit weird for lawmakers to be watching movies while the economy is about to fall off a cliff, but if they’re going to do it, another film he did might be a better choice:

I think “The Company Men” is more appropriate.” That latter Affleck flick focuses on the plight of middle age men who have been laid off during the recession. (One of them, depressed about being unemployed, later kills himself.)

Greg Sargent reports that the Boehner plan is unlikely to get any Democratic votes in the House at all, which gives Boehner much less wiggle room with his own party:

After aggressively whipping votes, the office of House minority whip Steny Hoyer now believes that not a single Democrat will vote for John Boehner’s debt ceiling plan, delivering a blow to GOP hopes for getting it through the House, a top Democratic aide tells me.
[…]
If this bears out […] it could be a very big deal. It means that House Republicans need all Republican votes to pass the Boehner plan, which would hike the debt ceiling in stages, and significantly reduces the margin of error House GOP vote counters have at their disposal.

Each Dem vote for the plan means GOP leaders need one less House conservative to support it, and if Dems unanimously vote against the proposal, House Republicans can only afford to lose roughly two dozen GOPers in order to pass it. The latest public whip count has it that some 20 House GOPers are either firm No votes or are leaning in the direction of No, though the private count could be somewhat different, and it’s also important to remember that things could change once GOP leaders release the new version of their proposal in response to the CBO score finding less-than-desired savings.

If the House does end up passing the bill in its new version, and if somehow it passed the Senate (highly unlikely) and reached the President’s desk, The Hill reports that “House Democrats are calling on President Obama to invoke the 14th Amendment and raise the debt ceiling without congressional input.”

Think Progress has details (emphasis is in original):

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. John Larson (CT) and Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn (SC) explained that their colleagues believe that if Republicans are intent on “destroying government,” then there should be a “fail-safe mechanism” to ensure that the debt ceiling is hiked and that this mechanism is the 14th amendment:

LARSON: If a small group is really that intent on destroying government, and is intent on saying they don’t believe there are any ramifications for their irresponsibility then we have to have a fail-safe mechanism, we believe that fail safe mechanism is the 14th amendment and the president of the United States.

CLYBURN: So I would say to the president, if that’s what lands on his desk, a short-term listing of the debt ceiling — he should put it on his desk next to an executive order he will have drawn up. And with the same pen that he vetoes that short term debt ceiling extension, he should sign an executive order invoking the 14th Amendment to this issue. I am convinced that whatever discussions about the legality of this issue can continue.

In an update to its own coverage of this story, The Huffington Post reports that Jay Carney (White House Press Secretary), as he has before, “ruled out the possibility of Obama using the 14th Amendment to resolve the debt dispute.”

The tragic comic opera continues tomorrow.

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