House GOP Scraps Debt-Ceiling Plan

They’re going clean.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 06: U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) speaks during his weekly news conference February 6, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Speaker Boehner discussed Republican agenda with members of the media at the news conference. 
National Journal
Elahe Izadi Sarah Mimms
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Elahe Izadi Sarah Mimms
Feb. 11, 2014, 4:56 a.m.

House Re­pub­lic­ans scrapped a plan they de­vised Monday night to raise the debt ceil­ing with an ad­di­tion­al meas­ure to re­verse vet­er­ans’ cuts. In­stead, they’re go­ing clean, ac­cord­ing to a source in the room. That vote will come Tues­day night, be­cause of a pos­sible snowstorm on the east coast, says a House lead­er­ship aide.

Lead­er­ship had wanted to ex­tract something out of rais­ing the debt ceil­ing and had settled on rolling back the $6 bil­lion on cost of liv­ing cuts to mil­it­ary pen­sions. But Demo­crats have long in­sisted they won’t give any­thing in re­turn for rais­ing the debt ceil­ing. The GOP plan would have re­lied on sup­port from a good num­ber of Demo­crats, since many con­ser­vat­ives will vote against rais­ing the debt ceil­ing re­gard­less of what’s at­tached.

Many House Re­pub­lic­ans had let the speak­er know of their dis­sat­is­fac­tion about the earli­er plan on Monday night.

And House Demo­crats, in­clud­ing Demo­crat­ic con­fer­ence chair­man Xavi­er Be­cerra, sug­ges­ted Monday that if Boehner was de­pend­ing on Demo­crat­ic votes to get the meas­ure through, he should not be so con­fid­ent. Demo­crats have been cling­ing to their de­mand for a debt-ceil­ing hike to be passed without any strings at­tached.

“I’m pretty boxed in,” said fresh­man Rep. Richard Hud­son, R-N.C. He said he wasn’t likely go­ing to vote for the debt-ceil­ing lift at all, but now will def­in­itely not.

“House Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers told mem­bers this morn­ing that it is clear the paid-for mil­it­ary COLA pro­vi­sion will not at­tract enough sup­port,” says a source from the room Tues­day morn­ing. The Speak­er did make clear that the new plan would have the ne­ces­sary num­ber of Re­pub­lic­an votes, but would have to be car­ried by Demo­crats.

A clean bill will force at least a few dozen Re­pub­lic­ans to join with Demo­crats in or­der to raise the debt ceil­ing, a move that could be un­pop­u­lar with con­ser­vat­ive groups and con­stitu­en­cies that have called for spend­ing cuts in ex­change for an in­crease in the na­tion’s debt lim­it. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., who is close with lead­er­ship, and oth­ers have of­ten re­ferred to these mem­bers as “sac­ri­fi­cial lambs.”

Po­ten­tially lower­ing fur­ther the num­ber of House Re­pub­lic­ans who might vote along with Demo­crats in passing a clean in­crease are plans by the con­ser­vat­ive group, Her­it­age Ac­tion for Amer­ica, to come out against the bill.

“We’re go­ing to key vote it,” said a Her­it­age spokes­man, Dan Holler, on Tues­day morn­ing. He said an an­nounce­ment would be com­ing later in the day.

With 432 of the 435 House seats now oc­cu­pied, the meas­ure will re­quire a ma­jor­ity 217 votes to pass if every­one shows up on the floor and do not simply vote “present.” There are 232 Re­pub­lic­ans and 200 Demo­crats in the House.

That could make the math in­ter­est­ing. Demo­crat­ic Whip Steny Hoy­er says more than 180 Demo­crats would vote for the debt ceil­ing in­crease, but he won’t pledge all 200.

Boehner told re­port­ers after the Tues­day morn­ing meet­ing that he ex­pec­ted the House GOP would put “a min­im­um amount of votes up to get it passed.”

“Let his party give him the debt ceil­ing [in­crease] he wants,” said Boehner, re­fer­ring to Pres­id­ent Obama. But he said some Re­pub­lic­ans will ob­vi­ously have to vote for the bill, and that he’ll be one of them.

House Demo­crats are already sound­ing off on the new, clean plan.

“That is what our po­s­i­tion has al­ways been and the speak­er has been gra­cious in his con­ver­sa­tions with us as to see what we would vote for and we told him we would vote for a clean [debt ceil­ing],” House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi said as she ex­ited the House Demo­crat­ic con­fer­ence meet­ing Tues­day morn­ing. “We think no mat­ter who the pres­id­ent is and who con­trols the con­gress, the full faith and cred­it of the United States is not ne­go­ti­able.”

House Demo­crat­ic lead­ers sent a mes­sage to their mem­bers this morn­ing that “the debt ceil­ing is clean, must be clean and that’s the only kind of vote that we would take,” said Demo­crat­ic Rep. Nita Lowey.

Demo­crats have long been against vot­ing for a debt ceil­ing in­crease with any­thing at­tached to it, and were con­cerned that do­ing so would set a dan­ger­ous pre­ced­ent.

“The Demo­crats have made it clear that they will vote for a debt ceil­ing that is clean and any at­tempt to at­tach any oth­er good­ies onto it is un­ac­cept­able,” Lowey ad­ded.

“Isn’t it pathet­ic,” an em­phat­ic Steny Hoy­er railed as he knocked the table he sat be­fore, “that the party in charge of the House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives can only get… 18 votes for mak­ing sure their na­tion pays its bills.”

On the Sen­ate side, Sen­ate Budget Chair Patty Mur­ray called the new plan “en­cour­aging,” and that she “look[s] for­ward to [the House GOP] send­ing over a debt lim­it bill with no ransom de­mands at­tached.”

Not every­one is quite as happy. The Sen­ate Con­ser­vat­ives Fund blas­ted out a re­lease Tues­day morn­ing say­ing that “John Boehner must be re­placed as Speak­er of the House.”

The new plan, in­tro­duced Tues­day with a planned vote for that night, would vi­ol­ate a GOP pledge to al­low a three-day wait­ing peri­od between a bill be­ing in­tro­duced and a vote. There is, however, a loop­hole in that pledge for passing emer­gency le­gis­la­tion. House Re­pub­lic­an aides in­sist they are not in vi­ol­a­tion of the three-day rule be­cause the lan­guage was pos­ted to Rules last night, and that they will just push for­ward with a por­tion of it.

The Treas­ury De­part­ment has said Con­gress has un­til Feb. 27 to raise the debt lim­it, and Boehner has re­peatedly vowed the na­tion will not de­fault on its ob­lig­a­tions. The Sen­ate is con­sid­er­ing a meas­ure to roll back the mil­it­ary cuts this week.

The move is a polit­ic­al win for Demo­crats, who now don’t have to go on re­cord against restor­ing vet­er­ans’ cuts, or al­tern­at­ively look hy­po­crit­ic­al for vi­ol­at­ing their “clean only” pledge. But Re­pub­lic­ans also now avoid a messy fight over the debt ceil­ing. In fact, many con­ser­vat­ives had been ask­ing lead­er­ship to put up a clean bill for weeks, since that’s how they ex­pec­ted the drama to play out. Looks like they’re get­ting their wish.

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