Boehner Heads Back to the Drawing Board as His Debt Plan Hits Snag
A vote on Speaker John Boehner’s debt plan was delayed after the CBO said it would save less than advertised. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.
House Speaker John Boehner was already having trouble with his right flank in selling his two-step proposal to raise the debt ceiling. For instance, the influential Club for Growth, which is always eager to challenge insufficiently conservative Republicans with primary challengers, has said it will score a vote for Rep. Boehner’s plan in a negative fashion.
The speaker’s challenge became that much tougher when the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said his plan would have only $850 billion in spending cuts — far below the $1-$1.2 trillion he had been seeking in order to pass the first $900 billion tranche of a debt ceiling increase.
That news from the CBO only emboldened House Republicans who have expressed opposition to the Boehner plan, and it sent the speaker and his team back to the drawing board in search of more spending cuts.
House GOP leadership had hoped to have the bill up for a vote on Wednesday, but they will now aim for Thursday.
“We’re here to change Washington — no more smoke-and-mirrors, no more ‘phantom cuts.’ We promised that we will cut spending more than we increase the debt limit — with no tax hikes — and we will keep that promise. As we speak, Congressional staff are looking at options to re-write the legislation to meet our pledge. This is what can happen when you have an actual plan and submit it for independent review — which the Democrats who run Washington have refused to do,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.
In an editorial titled “The GOP’s Reality Test,” the Wall Street Journal provides full-throated support for Rep. Boehner’s plan and cautions the House GOP freshmen and Tea Party-backed members not to overreach by allowing the country to go into default next week:
“The question now is whether House Republicans are going to help Mr. Boehner achieve significant progress, or, in the name of the unachievable, hand Mr. Obama a victory….
“The Speaker has made mistakes in his debt negotiations, not least in trusting that Mr. Obama wants serious fiscal reforms. But thanks to the President’s overreaching on taxes, Mr. Boehner now has the GOP positioned in sight of a political and policy victory. If his plan or something close to it becomes law, Democrats will have conceded more spending cuts than they thought possible, and without getting the GOP to raise taxes and without being able to blame Republicans for a debt-limit crackup or economic damage.
“If conservatives defeat the Boehner plan, they’ll not only undermine their House majority. They’ll go far to re-electing Mr. Obama and making the entitlement state that much harder to reform.”
Meanwhile, in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid continues to put the finishing touches on his plan to raise the debt limit by $2.4 trillion while cutting $2.7 trillion in spending in one fell swoop, so that there will be no need for an additional increase until after the 2012 elections.
The Washington Post notes that Boehner’s two steps versus Reid’s one step is the main difference between the two plans and that the spending cuts themselves are potentially quite similar.
But don’t let that fool you into thinking that compromise is more easily achieved. Both sides remain pretty dug in on the timing issue, and uncertainty about the path forward remains the dominant force in the Capitol Wednesday morning.
LET THE VEEP-STAKES BEGIN
The fight for the Republican nomination may just be getting started, but front-runner Mitt Romney is already offering up names of whom he would pick as a running mate.
The conservative Virginia blog, Bearing Drift, reports the former Massachusetts governor told campaign donors at a Virginia Beach fundraiser on Monday that his short list would include Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Romney called McDonnell an “incredible governor” and said he would be on “any candidate’s short-list,” according to J.R. Hoeft.
The three names had been previously mentioned as possible vice presidential picks. While Gov. McDonnell has hinted that he would be open to running, Gov. Christie and Sen. Rubio have done their best to knock down the speculation.
During an appearance on a Washington-area radio program in February, McDonnell said that he would have to give serious thought to the No. 2 slot if presented with the opportunity. “Anybody that got asked that obviously would consider it an honor, but I’m not expecting that,” McDonnell said. “I’m not looking for it.”
In an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in June, Chrisite said, “The person that picked me for vice president would have to be sedated.” The straight-talking governor added for good measure, “Seriously, forget it.”
Rubio flat-out dismissed the notion of being on the 2012 ticket in his own “Meet the Press” appearance in May. “I won’t consider it. I don’t want to be the vice president of the United States. I want to be a senator, and I want to be a senator from Florida,” he said.
Given the apparent resistance of Christie and Rubio to join the ticket, McDonnell could be fielding calls from more than just Romney, should the former governor find himself in the position to make the call.
LATEST ON THE HORSE RACE
When it comes to the announced candidates, Romney still holds a solid lead over his next closest competitor for the GOP nod, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann.
A Gallup poll released Wednesday shows Romney with 27 percent support among Republican voters, followed by 18 percent for Bachmann.
The only other declared candidate to reach double-digits is Texas Rep. Ron Paul with 11 percent.
Things get a bit dicier for Romney when Gallup includes the names of three potential candidates in the survey: Texas Gov. Rick Perry, 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Each has expressed some level of interest in joining the race.
Romney still leads the field when Gallup expands to the full list, but his overall support drops to 17 percent. Perry places second with 15 percent, followed by Palin at 12 percent and Bachmann and Giuliani each with 11 percent.
Clearly, Romney would prefer that field to remain stable, setting up a potential scenario down the line where Republicans would have to choose between him and Bachmann.
If Perry gets into the race, he could draw from the Tea Party enthusiasm that has lifted Bachmann’s campaign in recent weeks. Perry would also compete with Romney financially, given the connections he’s developed around the country during his time as chair of the Republican Governors Association.
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