With Debt Ceiling Agreement In Place, Can Leaders Find Enough Votes?
It’s a new morning in Washington as Congress prepares to vote on extending the debt limit while cutting spending. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.
If members of Congress from both parties and in both chambers follow their leaders, the United States is all but assured of avoiding default thanks to a last-minute agreement reached with President Obama on Sunday.
“The leaders of both parties, in both chambers, have reached an agreement that will reduce the deficit and avoid default,” President Obama said in a Sunday night appearance in the White House press briefing room.
The president scored a victory on his last holdout demand that there not be another debt limit increase tied to deficit reduction six months from now. If the plan passes, he will be able to authorize a debt limit increase that lasts until the beginning of 2013.
The rest of the deal, however, is a lot closer to what Republicans have been demanding: no tax increases or new revenues of any kind, spending caps for government agencies and at least an equal amount of deficit reduction for the total amount of the increase in the debt ceiling.
For all sides, it’s a deal with plenty to hate, and nobody comes out looking like a hero to the American people.
“We’re confident this deal will and should pass,” White House senior adviser David Plouffe told George Stephanopoulos Monday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“Hopefully moving forward here, people will lower their voices a little bit and see compromise a little bit earlier because this was, obviously, a three ring circus — something that was a spectacle and let’s hope that it doesn’t get repeated any time soon,” Plouffe added when asked if everyone in Washington comes out looking bad here.
The White House put out a “fact sheet” to reporters explaining the agreement:
Â· Removes the cloud of uncertainty over our economy at this critical time, by ensuring that no one will be able to use the threat of the nation’s first default now, or in only a few months, for political gain;
Â· Locks in a down payment on significant deficit reduction, with savings from both domestic and Pentagon spending, and is designed to protect crucial investments like aid for college students;
Â· Establishes a bipartisan process to seek a balanced approach to larger deficit reduction through entitlement and tax reform;
Â· Deploys an enforcement mechanism that gives all sides an incentive to reach bipartisan compromise on historic deficit reduction, while protecting Social Security, Medicare beneficiaries and low-income programs;
Â· Stays true to the President’s commitment to shared sacrifice by preventing the middle class, seniors and those who are most vulnerable from shouldering the burden of deficit reduction. The President did not agree to any entitlement reforms outside of the context of a bipartisan committee process where tax reform will be on the table and the President will insist on shared sacrifice from the most well-off and those with the most indefensible tax breaks.
Wrangling those votes will not be easy work over the next day. On Monday, leadership from each party and in each chamber will take the temperature of their respective conferences/caucuses to find a path to passing the deal and getting it to the president’s desk.
“I’m gonna tell you, this has been a long battle — we’ve fought valiantly — and frankly we’ve done it by listening to the American people,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told his conference in a Sunday evening phone call. “And as a result, our framework is now on the table that will end this crisis in a manner that meets our principles of smaller government.”
“Now listen, this isn’t the greatest deal in the world. But it shows how much we’ve changed the terms of the debate in this town,” he added.
Rep. Boehner presented a “fact sheet” of his own in selling the deal to his members.
In addition to the expected Tea Party members and conservatives opposed to raising the debt limit in the way the agreement provides, many liberal Democrats are also expressing opposition to the deal’s cuts-only approach.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi remained non-committal after the president spoke Sunday night.
“We all agree that our nation cannot default on our obligations and that we must honor our nation’s commitments to our seniors, and our men and women in the military,” Rep. Pelosi said. “I look forward to reviewing the legislation with my Caucus to see what level of support we can provide.”
Leaders of Congress have 24 hours to get their members in line to pass the bill to avoid risking default. Let the sales job begin.
Sunday evening’s announcement was timed to the opening of Asian markets, where trading had started shortly before the deal was made public. President Obama and congressional leaders also clearly wanted to send a strong signal to Wall Street before Monday’s opening bell.
THE GOP 2012 REACTION
Most of the Republican 2012 presidential field seemed intent on waiting for more details to emerge before weighing in on the agreement, but two candidates chose to react right away.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., one of three candidates who will have the opportunity to vote on the deal, criticized the president’s handling of the debt talks in a statement released Sunday night.
“The ‘deal’ he announced spends too much and doesn’t cut enough. This isn’t the deal the American people ‘preferred’ either, Mr. President. Someone has to say no. I will,” Rep. Bachmann said.
That position should come as no big surprise to Republican leaders in the House as they whip the “yea” and “nay” votes Monday. The three-term Minnesota congresswoman has been opposed to any increase in the debt limit from the outset.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, meanwhile, said the framework was not the “preferred outcome,” but he called it “a positive step toward cutting our nation’s crippling debt.”
Huntsman was the first GOP candidate to go on record in support of the Boehner plan that passed the House last week, a decision he sought to highlight while also delivering (not so) subtle shots at those who opposed raising the debt ceiling (Bachmann) and those who have avoided taking a firm stance on the debate (Mitt Romney).
“While some of my opponents ducked the debate entirely, others would have allowed the nation to slide into default and President Obama refused to offer any plan, I have been proud to stand with congressional Republicans working for these needed and historic cuts,” Huntsman said in a statement. “A debt crisis like this is a time for leadership, not a time for waiting to see which way the political winds blow.”
With all the other plans no longer in play, the question for the rest of the Republican field is not: “Do you like the compromise?” It’s: “Would you sign this deal if you were president?”
BIG [OUTSIDE] MONEY
The candidates aren’t going to be only ones raising (and spending) large sums of money on the 2012 campaign.
The Washington Post’s T.W. Farnam reports that several Democratic and Republican interest groups have been collecting big checks in advance of the election:
“The big contributions, which largely come from a handful of party stalwarts, show how top donors on both sides of the aisle are willing to invest in campaigns with the Democratic Senate majority in the balance and the presidency at stake in 2012. The reports show a Democratic donor base that appears to be much more engaged after a 2010 midterm election dominated by new Republican groups.”
The big money raisers include Priorities USA, a group founded by former aides to President Obama, which hauled in $5 million in the first half of the year, with $2 million of that coming from Hollywood producer Jeffrey Katzenberg.
The Romney-backing Restore Our Future PAC, meanwhile, brought in $12 million from a handful of big donors, including $1 million from hedge fund founder John Paulson and another $1 million from two members of the Marriott hotel family.
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