Boehner's Last Ditch Battle to Rescue Debt Plan

Friday, 29 Jul 2011 12:34 PM

By Martin Gould

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House Speaker John Boehner bowed to tea party congressmen on Friday when he agreed to add a constitutional balanced budget amendment to his plan to solve the debt ceiling crisis.

The move came 20 hours after Boehner was forced to abandon a vote on his proposal when he realized he could not get it through the Republican-controlled chamber.

Now the two-stage vote will include the constitutional amendment, announced House Rules Committee chairman, Rep. David Dreier.

Immediately one Republican hold-out, Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona, said he would now support the Boehner plan after earlier saying he would vote against. He predicted it would pass as other Republicans lined up behind their leadership. "I think you’ll see quite a few get on board," Flake said.

Another potential ‘no’ vote, Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia told fellow GOP members in a closed-door meeting, “Let’s go vote 100 percent for this bill,” according to Politico. Rep. Scott Garrett of New Jersey also said he would now support Boehner.

But even if the vote passes in the House it has virtually no chance of getting through the Senate and President Barack Obama would almost certainly veto it. “What’s being done in the House is not a compromise, it’s being rammed through,” Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said.

Boehner’s move is being seen as a sweetener to some two-dozen Republicans who did not give in to his arm twisting on Thursday. Before the announcement Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina said he would still vote no unless Boehner could come up with something that was "trans-election cycle, trans-systemic, and transformative." One such measure, he said, would be a promised for a balanced budget amendment.

Some freshmen tea party-affiliated Congressman, led by Florida’s Allen West, agreed to support Boehner on Thursday, but others stood firm. Many were spooked after former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin stepped in with a Facebook message which appeared to warn them that voters would remember if they supported the Boehner plan.

She ended her message, “P.S. Everyone I talk to still believes in contested primaries.”

Dreier’s announcement came minutes after President Barack Obama made a televised address imploring members of both parties to compromise and get a debt ceiling bill on his desk by Tuesday, the date that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has set as a deadline before the country starts to default on its debts.

Obama warned that the country is in danger of losing its AAA credit rating unless Congress acted swiftly. “If we do not come to an agreement, we could lose our country's AAA credit rating,” he said. “Not because we do not have the capacity to pay our bills. We do. But because we did not have a AAA political system to match our AAA credit rating.”

He again implored voters to call, e-mail or tweet their representatives urging them to vote for what he calls a “balanced” approach to deficit reduction, including revenue-raising items along with spending cuts. “There are plenty of ways out of this mess, but we are running out of time,” he warned.

The president said Republicans who have insisted on no tax increases in any deal were missing the point because a downgrade in the rating would lead to higher interest rates which would end up affecting people in the same way. “That’s inexcusable,” Obama said.

As the House prepared for its vote, likely to come on Friday afternoon, the Senate was taking up its own plans on the debt limit. Majority leader Reid said he had invited his Republican counterpart Sen. Mitch McConnell to discuss a plan for the Upper House.

"I know the Senate compromise bill Democrats have offered is not perfect in Republican eyes,” said Reid. “Nor is it perfect for Democrats. But together, we must make it work for all of us. It’s the only option."

A Senate vote on the plan, which Reid says will cut $2.5 trillion from the deficit over 10 years, is likely on Sunday.


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