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Boehner To Bring Clean Debt Ceiling Bill To Vote In House

boehner_gavel

When the House and Senate finally resolved the shutdown crisis in October of last year, both of the major issues that were pending in Congress at the time, the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget and the debt ceiling, were essentially delayed until early this year in the hope that Congress would find a way to deal with them without sending us into another showdown. With respect to the budget, Republicans and Democrats pretty much succeeded in that regard. The co-chairs of the House and Senate Budget Committees, Paul Ryan and Patty Murray, unveiled a Budget Plan by the deadline that Congress had set in October and both Houses of Congress passed the plan with almost no serious objection before adjourning for the Christmas recess. Then, last month, the two Appropriations Committee came up with the bills necessary to actually fund the government through the end of the Fiscal Year in September, a bill that also passed both Houses of Congress easily with a minimum of dissent. The final issue left unresolved from October is the debt ceiling. In that area, Congress had raised the debt ceiling by an amount that most observers at the time estimated would be sufficient to last until mid-February depending on actual U.S. borrowing needs.

Last week, the debt ceiling issue reentered the public consciousness when Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said that the debt ceiling would be need to be raised by February 27th.  Thus, the issue is back on the front burner and the big question in Washington is how the House will deal with the issue. In the past, of course, Republicans have attempted to use the debt ceiling to get policy concessions or budget cuts from the Democrats to the point that they proceeded on more than one occasion to take the nation to the very brink of default before making a deal, something that happened in both October 2013 and July/August 2011. Today, we learned, much to the surprise of many Capitol Hill observers, that Speaker John Boehner intends to bring to the floor of the House a bill to extend the debt ceiling with no policy riders of any kind:

WASHINGTON — Facing a rebellion over his latest debt ceiling proposal, Speaker John A. Boehner has told House Republicabis that he will bring legislation to a vote on Wednesday that would raise the government’s borrowing authority with no strings attached.

“House Republican leaders told members this morning that it is clear the paid-for military COLA provision will not attract enough support, so we will be bringing up a ‘clean’ debt limit bill tomorrow,” a Republican official said. “Boehner made clear the G.O.P. would provide the requisite number of Republican votes for the measure but that Democrats will be expected to carry the vote.”

On Monday night, Mr. Boehner laid out a plan to link the debt ceiling increase to legislation that would have reversed a cut to veteran retirement benefits. But conservative Republicans opposed the plan, and Republican leaders worried that Democrats would not go along, holding firm to President Obama’s demand that no policy attachments come with a debt ceiling increase.

On Tuesday, the speaker gave up, a dramatic gesture for a leader who once declared the “Boehner Rule,” which holds that any debt ceiling increase should be attached to spending cuts of equal size. A House Republican who was in the room for the speaker’s announcement described the response as “stunned silence.”

On paper, it sounds like Boehner and the House GOP Leadership pretty have given up on trying to get the conservative wing of their caucus to agree on any type of debt ceiling increase, violate the non-existent “Hastert Rule,” and let a debt ceiling increase pass even if it means they have to rely almost totally on the votes of House Democrats to get it passed. It’s a politically risky move on their part, obviously, because it leaves them, and specifically Boehner, open to a leadership challenge at some point in the future, but one can easily understand their frustration. Leaving aside the question of how Democrats would have reacted to it, the idea of linking the debt ceiling increase to restoration of veterans retirement benefits seems like it should have been one that conservative Republicans would have backed enthusiastically. Indeed, it might have even been a fight that the GOP could have won. After all, who is going to really take a stand against veterans retirement benefits?

In any event, it remains an open question how this vote will turn out. Capitol Hill Reporters on Twitter are quoting Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer as saying that there will be at least 180 Democratic votes for a clean debt ceiling increase. If that’s the case, then Boehner, Cantor, and McCarthy will only need about 40 Republicans to vote for the bill to pass. No doubt, however, they’d like to see far more Republican support and will spend the better part of the next 24 or so hours trying to whip votes to their side. So, while it seems likely that a debt ceiling increase will pass easily, the real question will be how many Republican votes there are and what that means for Boehner’s future.

On a broader point, though, this seems to be a sign that the House Leadership is through coddling the Tea Party after the disaster that was the October 2013 shutdown. What that means for the future remains to be seen.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    And you said Obama, the lame duck, wasn’t going to have any more impact.
    Looks to me like he’s won this fight.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

  2. Moosebreath says:

    “the idea of linking the debt ceiling increase to restoration of veterans retirement benefits seems like it should have been one that conservative Republicans would have backed enthusiastically.”

    Except it would have violated their rule that any increases in spending must be offset.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  3. michael reynolds says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Yep. He’s beaten the House Republican crazies and bitch-slapped AIPAC. Good week.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

  4. C. Clavin says:

    The implications of this could be huge.
    If House Leadership is going to suddenly act in a sane manner, and ignore the Tea-Baggers, then we can actually get some stuff done that most everyone agrees on; immigration, tax reform, infrastructure…maybe even a real budget deal. Remember…Boehner and Obama had an agreement but Boehner couldn’t get the Baggers to go along. Maybe now???

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  5. grumpy realist says:

    Maybe Boehner realized that having a US debt default on his watch would cement his reputation in history as an ineffectual and selfish idiot.. .

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  6. Ron Beasley says:

    I see the Tea Party is already threatening to unseat Boehner as speaker.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  7. Gustopher says:

    Leaving aside the question of how Democrats would have reacted to it, the idea of linking the debt ceiling increase to restoration of veterans retirement benefits seems like it should have been one that conservative Republicans would have backed enthusiastically.

    And, unless I am grossly mistaken, it is the type of thing that traditionally would be added to a debt limit increase. Something that is ultimately pretty non-controversial, and fairly limited, but is a bit of red meat for the base. You do the ugly work of raising the debt ceiling, you get a cookie.

    And a lot of Democrats would likely support the restoration of benefits on its own, so it’s a very, very tiny cookie.

    Now, they don’t even get a cookie.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  8. Matt Bernius says:

    Doug wrote:

    [Partnering with the Dems on a clean bill] is a politically risky move on their part, obviously, because it leaves them, and specifically Boehner, open to a leadership challenge at some point in the future…

    Perhaps, but it seems to me that this is highly unlikely. At this point it doesn’t seem like there is anyone, outside of Cantor, who would be a viable challenge. And Cantor appears to be siding with Boehner on this.

    Looking across the current body of Republicans in Congress, it’s difficult to see anyone who (a) wants the Speakership, (b) is distant enough from Boehner to present a different platform, and (c) can actually raise the votes to displace Boehner.

    While the conservative wing will continue to grumble about Boehner and talk radio labels him a RiNO, the fact is there are no other viable options. So his job is safe for the foreseeable future.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  9. gVOR08 says:

    It is probably, on balance, good that the GOP House majority are acting less crazy. It’s bad in that it masks that they’re still crazy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  10. Matt Bernius says:

    @Ron Beasley:
    They can threaten all they want. And they can fund raise on it. But at the end of the day, I challenge anyone to name a single “Tea” approved candidate who could beat Boehner in a head-to-head contest.

    The Tea/ConservativeMediaComplex’s best hopes are that Boehner either retires, isn’t reelected to the House, or is caught in a big enough scandal that he’s forced out (the typically way that Republican Speakers “retire” in recent years).

    Of course those hard facts won’t stop them from pretending that they’re “serious” about getting rid of him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  11. Rafer Janders says:

    @Moosebreath:

    “the idea of linking the debt ceiling increase to restoration of veterans retirement benefits seems like it should have been one that conservative Republicans would have backed enthusiastically.”

    Why? They’ve never given a toss about either veterans.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  12. Moosebreath says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    I’m quoting Doug. Take it up with him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. al-Ameda says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    They can threaten all they want. And they can fund raise on it. But at the end of the day, I challenge anyone to name a single “Tea” approved candidate who could beat Boehner in a head-to-head contest.

    I agree, although I would love to see how Cantor would do. A part of me – the part that watches NASCAR to see the spin outs and crashes into the wall – really wants to see the election of a Speaker Michele Bachmann.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  14. stonetools says:

    Going forward, it seems that the best way to deal wioth Republicans is not to try to meet them halfway but just to confront them and draw thesharpest possiblecontrast with the Republicans.Voters can draw their conclusions and support the side they want.
    Faced with the choice between a reasonable Democratic position that the debt ceiling should be just raised to pay for obligations already agreed to and the b@tsh!t crazy Republican alternative in which they were willing to torch the economy to achieve an ideological goal, the public overwhelmingly went for the Democratic position last year and would have done so again this time. The Teapublicans finally saw this.
    I think too that the Republican leadership thinks that things are looking good for the Republicans this year. They didn’t want to immolate themselves in a fruitless debt deiling fight and pay the consequences in November.

    .

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  15. legion says:

    @Ron Beasley: I would genuinely _not_ be surprised to see one of those Teahdi looneys get physically violent on the House floor over this. They’re nuts, and they’ll see this as a complete betrayal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  16. Tyrell says:

    How about raising my debt limit, Speaker Boehner ? My credit company says no, so I have to find ways to make do. How about this idea: a low interest, no limit government credit card for the middle class working people ?

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 18

  17. grumpy realist says:

    @Tyrell:

    I don’t think you’re a country. Instant fail.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  18. mantis says:

    @Tyrell:

    Do you produce currency in circulation and accepted in the global economy while at the same time issuing securities to finance your debt, backed by immense national wealth? If not, your comment is nonsense.

    Anyone who thinks household finance is the same thing as that of nations is an idiot.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  19. rudderpedals says:

    Boehner found the glass jar Eric’s been hiding. Good on him. It’s the right thing to do. In all sincerity I hope he finds 20-30 decent Republicans to vote with him for the good of the country.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  20. anjin-san says:

    @ Tyrell

    Do you control energy assets worth a quarter of a trillion dollars, give or take a nickel? Have a fort full of gold bullion? The US government does. Fox News hysteria aside, we are nowhere near being broke, and the government has excellent credit despite the GOPs somewhat successful efforts to damage it..

    Grow up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  21. argon says:

    Rep. Pelosi should not let Bowhner off the hook.
    There are 435 positions in the House of Representatives: 232 Republican, 200 Democratic and 3 vacancies.

    Make Boehner pass the bill with a majority of Republican votes. If Democrats submit 101 yea votes, the Republicans would need 232 of their own to pass.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  22. C. Clavin says:

    @Tyrell:
    Dude…I’ll buy that Interstate System from you. Oh…you don’t have one? Well, how about all of your Parks and Nat’l Forest Land? Oh…you don’t have any? Ok, ok…Just sell me the Blue Ridge Parkway…I love that road…oh, you don’t own that either? OK…sell me some Bonds backed up by the full faith and credit of the United States. Oh, you can’t do that either? Well…what assets do you have? Shit…no wonder you don’t have unlimited credit and the good ol’ US of A has the best in the world.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  23. al-Ameda says:

    @Tyrell:

    How about raising my debt limit, Speaker Boehner ? My credit company says no, so I have to find ways to make do. How about this idea: a low interest, no limit government credit card for the middle class working people ?

    Do you have any evidence that the United States of America is unable to meet its current debt service obligations? And, no, the Republican effort to try to leverage the Debt Limit Ceiling into a forced default does not count.

    All that matters is that the United States government, has the fiscal capacity and the political will to meet its current debt obligations. It is currently the case that (1) we do have the financial resources to meet our debt obligations, and (2) at least one political party – the Democratic Party – has the political will to be financially responsible and not force a government default.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  24. rudderpedals says:

    And it looks like it just barely got out of the house with the help of an almost completely united caucus bringing 183 D votes

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  25. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Matt Bernius: I have no cognitive dissonance with Cantor siding with Boehner one day and pushing him under the bus the next.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. jukeboxgrad says:

    Anyone who thinks household finance is the same thing as that of nations is an idiot.

    Yes. “The government is not a household, and shouldn’t be run like one.” Link.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0