Game (Almost) Over?: House Will Vote On Senate Plan First, Pass It With Democratic Votes

A plan finally starting to come together?


We still don’t know exactly what is in the plan the Senators Reid and McConnell are currently still working on, although it reportedly would largely comport with what I talked about yesterday, however it does appear that we’re nearing the end of this game:

The House will vote first on an emerging Senate proposal to open government and lift the debt ceiling, a move that would expedite bipartisan legislation developed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The move means that there is now a clear path to end the first government shutdown in 17 years, and the country now appears closer to avoiding the first potential economy-shaking default on U.S. debt.

If the House passes the bill first and sends it to the upper chamber, it would eliminate some burdensome procedural hurdles in the Senate and require just one procedural roll call with a 60-vote threshold needed to advance the bill toward final passage in the Senate.

It could be an extraordinarily risky play for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), because it’s far from clear any Senate proposal would garner the majority of the House Republican Conference. House Republicans have clung to the so-called Hastert Rule, a mantra that the House speaker should not try to pass a bill that doesn’t have the support of the “majority of the majority.” In this case, that would mean 117 Republicans must support the bill to avoid getting crosswise with the rule. Top GOP sources say it’s unlikely they will reach that level of support.

But the fact that House Republicans are now planning to go that route marks a stunning reversal for the speaker who had backed his conservative wing’s drive to gut Obamacare as part of the government shutdown fight, now in its third week.

NRO’s Robert Costa also reports that Boehner will allow the bill to pass even in the face of what could be strong Republican opposition:

As I noted before, there are several procedural advantages in the Senate to letting the House go first on this vote, but there’s still the open question about how Senators like Ted Cruz and Mike Lee might proceed when the bill actually does get to the Senate floor. They can’t win, they’d likely aggravate the leadership in their party even more than they already have, but they could slow down the bill if they wanted to. However, as Ed Morrissey notes, if the House does end up passing the bill, which seems likely now, then Cruz and/or Lee are going to look pretty foolish forcing a pointless delay on the Senate, and they’re likely to just increase the ire for both of them that has been coming from Republicans who spent much of the summer warning that the strategy they were advocating was never going to succeed to begin with.

As for Boehner, it’s unclear what all of this will mean for his leadership. There may be as many as 50 Republicans willing to rebel against him right now, but the problem they face is that they don’t really have anyone to replace him with. The most obvious choices — Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, and Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan — have all been Boehner loyalists throughout this fight and it’s hard to see any of them wanting to be the focus of a coup attempt that may not actually succeed. That will be a battle for another day, though, as will the even bigger battle that many are starting to foresee between national Republicans and those tied to the Tea Party who led the GOP into this foolish battle to begin with.

Update: With Ted Cruz and Mike Lee now saying that they will not seek to block the bill in the Senate, there is speculation that the Senate will take up the bill first and then send it to the House for a final vote.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Deficit and Debt, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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 contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. john personna says:

    Yeah well, while many of us saw this coming, that the end game would be a suspension of the Hastert Rule, it’s sad isn’t it?

    So much wasted energy, for nothing.

    Of course, it depowered the Tea Party, and that might be a favor Boehner did for himself, and us along with him.

    We’ll have another “showdown” but this time we can hope that the Republican moderates can say “sit down and shut up” to Ted Cruz and the Teas.

  2. C. Clavin says:

    Um…we could have passed a clean CR weeks ago.
    And the Republican party wouldn’t have weakened itself so.
    Much thanks to Ted Cruz and the Tortilla Coast Republicans.

  3. al-Ameda says:

    So, Boehner is willing to risk his job after all?

    Honestly, if I was Speaker Boehner I’d be begging (practically bribing) Eric Cantor to, “take this job, please. You should be so honored to try and work with people like yourself.”

  4. john personna says:


    I did talk about Boehner playing this as a long game, with a calendar open on his desk.

    We shouldn’t really complain. We and Boehner had a common interest in breaking the Teas.

  5. grumpy realist says:

    I’m wondering if Boehner wasn’t trying to play both sides in this. Give the Tea Partiers enough rope and see if they manage to hang themselves or not.

    I think this has also brought forcibly home to the business sector exactly how insane the people they’ve been enabling are.

  6. Katharsis says:

    @john personna: McConnell too.

  7. MBunge says:

    What makes anyone think this has “broken” the Tea Party?

    1. If we don’t actually default, TP Congressman will probably come out of this even more popular with their supporters than before.

    2. A lot, and perhaps all, of the Republicans who vote for this deal are going to face primary challenges from the TP.

    3. Conservative media will be 10000000% devoted to flushing this fiasco down the memory hole and replacing it with the delusion that the TP made some sort of stand at Thermopylae.


  8. Scott says:

    it depowered the Tea Party

    They won’t see it that way. The righteous are never introspective. There won’t be any change in behavior on their part.

    The only way to punish them is to vote them out.

  9. al-Ameda says:

    @john personna:

    I did talk about Boehner playing this as a long game, with a calendar open on his desk.
    We shouldn’t really complain. We and Boehner had a common interest in breaking the Teas.

    Do you really think that Boehner has deliberately run this up to the cliff? If so Boehner has more nerve and confidence than I’ve given him credit for.

    I would not have gamed the default situation at all – it just goes to show you that to most people a government default is an abstraction. It intrigues them, the way watching a NASCAR crash does, but they don’t quite know how to feel about it.

    Finally, if this works out for the best, I suppose one could say that Boehner gave the Teas every opportunity to run their game, and he gave them more than enough rope to stage their own mass hanging.

  10. Rob in CT says:

    [Assuming things now go as expected]

    And remember, calling this “surrender” is dumb. The Sequester continues. The budget still needs to be negotiated.

    This is only defeat because the GOP (driven by the Teas, sure, but the rest of them enabled) picked a stupid, dangerous fight they couldn’t win.

    But they still hold the House and the battle never ends. They lost this time. They took a PR hit, but it’s possible (likely, even) that it will dissipate by election time. But they can still get into conference with the Dems and negotiate and win concessions via the normal process.

    It *is* good to win this fight, but come on. The Sequester is still in place, and lifting it will require concessions to the GOP on cuts to safety net programs and other stuff they don’t like. Fiscal stimulus isn’t even a gleam in Obama’s eye at this point. And once this government shutdown and debt ceiling hostage nonsense is over with, the GOP will be able to pivot to talking about the problems with the federal exchange website. The Dems will have their hands full.

  11. Todd says:

    At this point, I think John Boehner might be relieved to find someone else to take his job … but he’ll probably remain stuck with it … for at least another 15 months or so.

    The only way this silly shutdown might end up being (almost) worth it is if it really does embolden the “moderate” and/or realistic Republicans that are left to stand up to the Tea Party in the future.

    Speaking of the future ..

    Stuff like this gives me hope.

  12. john personna says:


    I think that a week ago, when Boehner said “the country will not default” he was telling the truth. He knew in his heart that he’d drop the Hastert Rule before that happened. Some of us picked up on that and called it “over,” and so he had to do some play-acting.

    If he would have gone for a full House vote when many of us on the middle and left FIRST asked for it, he probably would have lost his speakership to a still-powerful Tea Party.

    Now [sure], if the Teas had won something they wanted with via the Hastert Rule, Boehner probably would have been fine with that too … but he knew he had this option in his pocket, even if we worried that some of his crazier statements were the real thing.

    (Someone cited cold war parallels, where the US did crazy things, like fly bomber wings straight at the Soviet Union, to let them doubt our sanity. Same (dangerous) thing.)

  13. john personna says:

    To those who ask if the Teas themselves will know they are broken … I’m sure it’s a split within a split. Some of them are rational enough, and some will believe default was the way to go.

    (Also, re. cold war parallels, some where pretending they liked default, and are relieved.)

  14. cian says:

    The republicans may well hold the house in 2014, but it will be a very different party. The government shutdown and debt ceiling fight has put an end to the Hastert rule. Now that blackmail has failed spectacularly as a negotiating tool, the republicans will be forced to send out only those members who are prepared to deal. The tea party can only hold sway if Boehner, or whoever is speaker, insists on a majority of the majority. Absent this it’s a return to good old fashioned deal making- you know, give something to get something. The Tea party can primary moderates all they want, it still wont get them a majority in the house.

  15. grumpy realist says:

    Assuming that Ted Cruz doesn’t try to pull the entire solution down around his ears and we avoid default–what happens when we see the exact same mess get re-enacted January 2014?

    What I would immediately do, if I were Reid, is get some bright young Democrat in the House to bring a bill either getting rid of the debt ceiling entirely, or codify into law the statement “if you voted for the program, you also voted for the funds to maintain it, even if that means raising the debt limit.”

  16. john personna says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I accused Paul Ryan of trying to play gentleman highwayman to Cruz’s robber and thug.

    If anyone attempts a holdup again, I expect it to be less thuggish, and not any kind of full scale attempt to halt Obamacare.

    Or course, that depends on the web site operators getting their act together. I hope they’ve called in the A-Team.

  17. Rob in CT says:

    Do we actually believe the “Hastert rule” is going away? I think Boehner will discard it for this 1 vote, and then go back to what he’s been doing since he became Speaker.

  18. Mikey says:

    @Rob in CT: He’s discarded it more than once before–for example, the “fiscal cliff” deal and Superstorm Sandy aid.

    But it has been rare.

  19. john personna says:

    @Rob in CT:

    I expect that the Hastert Rule will continue for normal business, more or less.

    But don’t undercount that we now know default will not be allowed.

    What can militant Republicans threaten at this point? Another shutdown? I don’t think that will fly, given this recent memory.

  20. Rob in CT says:

    Here is the pessimistic take from a lefty:

    Money quote:

    Let’s pause for a moment to underscore the point. In early September, a “clean” CR—including sequester cuts—that funded the government into 2014 was considered a Republican victory by both the Republican House Majority Leader and Washington’s most prominent Democratic think tank. Now, just over a month later, the media is describing the exact same deal as Republican “surrender.”

    Partly, that’s because of Ted Cruz. Starting last month, as we all know, the Texas Senator—in conjunction with his fellow Tea Partiers in the House—forced GOP leaders to abandon the very “clean” CR proposal they had once championed. The new Republican position became no funding for the government and no increase in the debt ceiling without the defunding (or at least delaying) of Obamacare.

    Now that Republicans are backing off those demands, the press is saying they’ve caved. But that’s like saying that the neighborhood bully has caved because after demanding your shoes and bike, he’s once again willing to accept merely your lunch money.

    And a point that’s been made before:

    Democrats keep holding out hope that losing yet more public support will break the ideological “fever” that grips the Republican Party and help GOP moderates regain power. The problem, as the last few weeks have shown, is that the GOP keeps defining moderation down.

    I don’t entirely agree: I do think the “optics” of all of this matter. But he’s not really wrong about the policy substance.

  21. Todd says:

    @Rob in CT:

    I don’t entirely agree: I do think the “optics” of all of this matter. But he’s not really wrong about the policy substance.

    This being American politics, optics probably matter more than substance.

    Nobody likes a loser (even a perceived loser).

    Could be just a coincidence, but I just saw a story on my FB from a local news station here in Texas that criticizes the GOP for proposed proposed future military pay cuts (

    I have never rarely seen stories critical of the GOP on this station before (but plenty critical of the President). Interestingly, even the comments on the FB story are almost exclusively anti-Republican/congress.

    Optics matter.

  22. Rob in CT says:


    Right, I agree they do.

    But the policy substance matters too. Austerity hurts the recovery, which in turn hurts approval ratings of Obama & the Dems.

    Obama made a serious error agreeing to the Sequester. The whole thing about how the GOP really didn’t want the military cuts and would therefore agree to trade with the Dems for more non-military spending and/or tax increases was too clever by half. It’s true, military spending is the one type of government spending the GOP likes. However, when compared to tax increases on the affluent? Compared with spending money on T-bone steaks for Young Bucks? Ha. Not even close. I could be wrong, but I think a critical mass of GOP congresscritters are fine with keeping the Sequester – all of it – in place (while pushing for a better deal, of course). The “steady as she goes” course now favors their priorities. Spending cuts with no tax increases. Certainly no stimulus.

  23. Todd says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Sequester will be gone in January … mark my words.

    GOP can’t threaten government shutdown or default next time, now that everybody knows that their gun is only loaded with blanks. They’ll be forced to actually negotiate.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think Liberals will most likely not be happy in January, as entitlement cuts will almost surely be the price for ending sequester. But it’s going to happen.

    As for additional stimulus …

    I think an argument can still be made that it couldn’t hurt. But I think we might be beyond the point where it’s still necessary. The economy has been remarkably resilient despite the anchors that have been continually attached to it. Just ending the extreme austerity might be enough. (for the record, I was/am in the camp that thought the 2009 stimulus was too small)

  24. john personna says:


    GOP can’t threaten government shutdown or default next time, now that everybody knows that their gun is only loaded with blanks. They’ll be forced to actually negotiate.

    We are on the same page here. Ransom or extortion always depended on a “credible threat.”

    With default off the table, the threat is shutdown, which is gradually building a very bad taste in the public mind. I admit that is happening more slowly than I thought. Perhaps the high drama has distracted from the damage being done. With drama ended (we hope), we can return to the dysfunction of shutdown.

    Also, be prepared for many more eyes on Obamacare hiccups next week.

  25. Rob in CT says:


    That all makes sense to me. The question is whether it makes sense to Tea Partiers.

  26. Todd says:

    @Rob in CT:

    The question is whether it makes sense to Tea Partiers.

    Who cares?

    They were the ones who brought the defective gun to the firefight.

    Tea Party was already becoming less popular. I think (ok hope) this actually increases the momentum of their decline. Maybe instead of fearing them, rational people can go back to rolling their eyes at how ridiculous they are … sooner rather than later.

  27. Rob in CT says:

    Just saying:

    “This package is a joke compared to what we could have gotten if we had a more reasonable approach,” Graham told the Washington Post on Wednesday. “But live and learn; we’ll be doing this in a couple months.”

    My emphasis.

  28. Todd says:

    @Rob in CT:

    I could be wrong, but it almost sounds like you might be viewing this in the same way as some Conservatives … if the other side gets anything they want, then your side must have therefore “lost”.

    If this next round is actually a “real” negotiation the Republicans will almost certainly get a few things that they want. But so will the Democrats.

    … and without the credible threat of default/shutdown, perhaps the starting positions might even be closer to neutral (although still most likely well right of where most Dems would like to start)

  29. Rob in CT says:

    No, I’m not saying the Dems lost.

    I’m saying they didn’t win anything in particular, from the standpoint of policy.

    Further, they DID potentially deter future hostage-taking. But I’m not at all convinced it’ll hold.

  30. john personna says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Dude. Ezra Klein is pondering the possibility that Sen. Ted Cruz is a Democratic sleeper agent..

    It is that big of a win.

  31. john personna says:
  32. john personna says:

    Heh, someone else suggests that Cruz is a Canadian agent.

  33. Rob in CT says:

    To be clear, guys, I’m really reacting against what I see is premature triumphalism from left-of-center pundits (such as, for instance, Ezra). I’m not really arguing with you guys.

    I think this is a modest win, basically all about what are and are not acceptable negotiation tactics. The win just takes us back into relative sanity. It does not advance Dem goals (by itself). I think it’s useful to keep that in mind. There’s a lot of scadenfreude going ’round. That’s nice, but keep your eyes on the ball is all I’m saying.

  34. john personna says:

    @Rob in CT:

    I think the interesting thing is that if JKB, or Jenos, or Superwhatever, show up, we can say “stop and think about it … you acted in the Democrats best interest.”

    “It wasn’t just Cruz. You built this trap for yourselves and helped to destroy your brand.”

    “The next time something like this happens, and some GOP Congressman starts to preach insanity … sit down and think.. Is it sane?”


  35. Todd says:

    @Rob in CT:

    It does not advance Dem goals (by itself).

    You’re assuming that some/most of us are actually interested in “advancing Dem goals”. There’s a big difference between being anti-“nut-job-conservatives” and wanting to “advance Dem goals”.

  36. Rob in CT says:

    9. Warren Buffett came up with the best quote of the crisis: “Creditworthiness is like virginity. It can be preserved but not restored very easily.”

    Ah, Warren. That’s a good one.

    10. We get to do it all again in January and February. But next time, we’ll all be aware in advance that the G.O.P.’s threats to force a debt default are empty.

    I certainly hope so. Assuming Boehner keeps his job (seems like he will), this should be the case. If he were to lose it to revolting Teas ;), then it’s more of an open question.

  37. Rob in CT says:


    Like I said, I was reacting to left-of-center pundits declaring victory.

    For folks more like you and JP, this is much more of a clean win, as you’re less interested in advancing Dem goals than said pundits (or me).

  38. Rob in CT says:

    Larison, as usual, makes sense. I sure hope this breaks the Teas. I’m just skeptical is all. I’ve been waiting for Peak Wingnut for what feels like a long time now.

  39. Mikey says:
  40. john personna says:


    He wants the Teas to toe the conservative line, but it is interesting that his attack is on their refusal to govern.

    “I think there are members who are in complete denial about their responsibility to govern and to try to use conservative principles to get the best possible legislative package we can get,” he said.

    Well yeah, we’ve known that, but good to hear it from within the party.

  41. Rob in CT says:

    I do believe I missed something. Got this from Chait:

    The surrender terms negotiated by Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell have an interesting provision, which would change the way Congress votes on the next debt-limit increase:

    The plan includes a proposal offered by McConnell in the 2011 debt ceiling crisis that allows Congress to disapprove of the debt ceiling increase, which means lawmakers will formally vote on whether to reject a debt ceiling increase until Feb. 7. Obama can veto that legislation if it passes. If Congress fails as expected to gather a two-thirds majority to override the veto, the debt ceiling would be raised.

    If that’s confusing, the gist is that it changes the mechanics of the vote to make failure nearly impossible. Instead of needing Congress to approve a debt-ceiling increase, Congress has to override an Obama veto in order to prevent it. So now it would take a two-thirds vote to trigger the kind of terrifying failure that before could have been triggered by a 50 percent–plus–one vote.

    Ok, if that gets passed, I revise my earlier commentary. Upgrade from minor win to significant win. That removes the weapon, allowing for the more usual grandstanding only.

  42. al-Ameda says:

    @Rob in CT:

    The plan includes a proposal offered by McConnell in the 2011 debt ceiling crisis that allows Congress to disapprove of the debt ceiling increase, which means lawmakers will formally vote on whether to reject a debt ceiling increase until Feb. 7. Obama can veto that legislation if it passes. If Congress fails as expected to gather a two-thirds majority to override the veto, the debt ceiling would be raised.

    Whoa, I salute whomever came up with those terms – everyone will be declaring victory, then going … hey, wait a minute … no wait … never mind …

  43. David M says:

    @Rob in CT:

    The language isn’t very clear, I’m not sure if that only applies to the current debt ceiling increase or all future ones as well.

  44. C. Clavin says:

    Republicans come out and blame the press…is it possible for an entire political party to suffer from the Dunning-Kruger Effect????

    The first federal government shutdown in 17 years, triggered by a Republican demand to defund the Affordable Care Act on Oct. 1, cost the U.S. $24 billion in potential economic activity — equalling at least 0.6% of projected annualized fourth-quarter 2013 GDP growth, according to ratings agency Standard & Poor’s.

    BUT THE PARKS!!!!!

  45. Mikey says:

    @john personna: Boustany is pretty much 100% correct in everything he says that’s quoted in the article. Like this:

    And he pointed the blame squarely at tea party lawmakers who he said were more concerned about bolstering their conservative bona fides than governing.

    “Their allegiance is not to the members in the conference. Their allegiance is not to the leadership team and to conservative values,” he said. “Their allegiance is to these outside Washington DC interest groups that raise money and go after conservative Republicans.”

    He says there’s “a very large silent majority” that opposes what the Tea Party types are doing. My only question is, why stay silent in the face of a small group that’s ruining your party?

  46. Rob in CT says:


    Meh. Most of the disagreement is over tactics, not goals. Granted, the tactics in this instance were beyond the pale and, therefore, it matters. But keep your eye on the goals.

  47. Mikey says:

    @Rob in CT: I think there’s more to it than tactics and goals. There’s a fundamental breakdown in the Tea Party types that’s been brought up before, and it’s brought up again by Boustany: they simply do not want to actually govern. “Compromise = surrender” is a pretty bad way to see things when our political system has the necessity for compromise built into its very structure.

    Disagreement on goals is something that can be dealt with, if both sides are willing to do the tough work of negotiating and compromising and governing. It’s damn near impossible if you’re trying to deal with someone for whom the slightest shift off of “principle” is tantamount to suicide. You simply can’t have a functioning political system in that context.

  48. anjin-san says:

    BUT THE PARKS!!!!!

    Just turned on Fox, it seems the parks are pretty much all they want to talk about.

    Billions wasted, a serious hit to our national prestige, and the top priority is scenic turnouts in the Dakotas.

  49. Rob in CT says:


    The goals can make things impossible too. If one party’s goal is to “drown government in the bathtub” and the other party’s goal is to tend to the needs of the population using the government, compromise is difficult.

    Tire Rims and Anthrax for lunch, or Italian food?

    It’s like a Martian talking to a Fungo…