WASHINGTON — House Republicans voted down a version of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s debt ceiling increase plan Saturday afternoon, hours before a procedural vote in the Senate that itself could fail.
The bill, which would raise the debt limit by $2.4 trillion, cut an equal amount in spending and set up a bipartisan, bicameral commission to find further savings, was destined to fail in the House, where Republicans hold the majority and have said Reid’s plan does not contain the necessary immediate spending cuts and hurdles to future spending necessary to get their vote (no Republican voted for the legislation). The bill was also considered under a procedure requiring two-thirds of the House to approve the bill, an insurmountably high threshold for any piece of controversial legislation.
The only yes votes from Minnesota came from Democrats Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum and Tim Walz; Collin Peterson was one of 11 Democrats to oppose the bill. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who has said she will oppose any increase in the debt ceiling, hammered President Obama on the House floor during debate on the Reid bill.
“Obama has coolly stood on the sidelines castigating Republicans for not giving him a $2.4 trillion blank check,” the Republican presidential candidate said.
The House’s move comes a day after it approved a competing proposal from Speaker John Boehner on Friday afternoon that hours later was defeated by the Senate. Boehner’s bill would have raised the debt limit by $900 billion, contained $917 billion spending cuts over 10 years and established a similar deficit reduction commission as Reid’s bill.
The plan had two main sticking point for Democrats: Boehner’s bill would have made a further increase in the debt limit contingent on congressional approval of a balanced budget amendment, and Congress would need to approve that second increase within a few months instead of in 2013.
Minnesota Democrat Sen. Al Franken said a longer-term debt deal would provide more stability to the economy than having Congress undertake another deficit reduction battle. He also said he opposed the idea of requiring a balanced budget amendment, pointing to the surpluses created in the 1990s during the Clinton years with no such requirement.
“There are ways to balance the budget without a balanced budget amendment,” Franken said in an interview, adding that Congress should spend and cut wisely and not try to lower taxes while the country is engaged militarily.
The Senate defeated the Boehner bill Friday night. Senators cast their first vote on the Reid plan around midnight tonight, but its passage is up in the air: it requires at least 60 votes, and 43 of the Senate’s 100 members sent Reid a letter Saturday saying they’d oppose the bill.
So to recap: the Republican House will not support the Democratic Senate’s plan, and vice versa. Negotiations are ongoing today as leaders try to find an agreeable debt limit increase before the Tuesday deadline to do so.
Congressional Democratic leaders Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are meeting with Obama Saturday afternoon. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said at a press conference that he’s talked to Obama and he’s “confident and optimistic that we’re to get a deal soon.”
“We now have a level of seriousness with the right people at the at the table,” he said.
The trick will be in crafting a deal that can get support from moderates in both parties, given how both conservatives and liberals are set on opposing any legislation that does not fulfill all or most of their priorities.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar told CBS News Saturday morning that compromise is possible given the similarities between the Boehner and Reid proposals — both contain similar spending cuts, establish spending caps and create commissions to find additional savings.
“This is the ninth inning. The time for political posturing is over,” she said. “These votes are votes and they had to take place in order to get the ball rolling and now is the time for the new negotiations.”
Devin Henry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.