Just hours before Tuesday evening's planned House vote on a GOP “Cut, Cap and Balance” plan for raising the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, conceded he “thinks it is responsible for us to look at what Plan B will look like.”
“I’m not going to go out of my way and say the Senate can’t pass it,” said Boehner, regarding what happens after the House votes on its legislation that would also make deep spending cuts over 10 years and be linked to passage of a balanced budget amendment in a separate vote not scheduled for this week.
But Boehner’s admission that a fallback plan must be looked at, at the least, is a tacit public acknowledgement that “Cut, Cap and Balance” is not a realistic solution to the nation’s looming debt crisis, since it is unlikely to pick up enough Senate Democratic votes and the Obama administration has already said the president would veto it.
Hours after President Obama spoke favorably of the so-called Gang of Six plan, Boehner's office released a statement saying that the Senate plan "shares many similarities with the framework the Speaker discussed with the president, but also appears to fall short in some important areas.”
(RELATED: Obama Hails Gang of Six Plan)
Negotiations between the White House and congressional leaders are described as continuing. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said the House could stay in session this weekend if necessary. An aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said later on Tuesday said no meeting is yet scheduled on Wednesday, but Reid expects a conversation based on Obama’s statement on Tuesday.
(RELATED: Executive Summary of Gang of Six Plan)
Boehner would not say what other options he considers to be available or viable as “Plan Bs” during a news conference with other House Republicans, intended to emphasize House Republican resolve to fix the nation’s fiscal ills.
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But Tuesday night's political gamesmanship on the House floor takes place as the clock continues to tick down to August 2. That’s the day Treasury says the debt ceiling must be raised or the country faces defaulting on some of its bills.
In an earlier closed-door conference with rank-and-file members, House GOP leaders urged other Republicans to stay “cohesive,” said freshman Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C., a member of the leadership team.
But Scott said afterward that he and most of his colleagues remain uncertain about what the solution to the standoff can be.
He said many House Republicans view as “an abdication of responsibility” the details of what they know about the compromise plan offered by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. -- now being devised with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. -- giving President Obama power to raise the debt ceiling by $2.5 trillion. And, he acknowledged, “Cut, Cap, and Balance never makes it to the president’s desk.”
“I think there has to be something that emerges Wednesday that folks are working on that we don’t know anything about,” said Scott. “Someone has to come up with something new -- because [I] don’t think we can be that stupid -- to say there is no alternative whatsoever.”
Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said Reid has agreed to a Senate vote on a “Cut, Cap and Spend” measure. That vote could come under regular order, which, if all time is used, would result in a Saturday vote. The Senate is expected to vote separately later this week on a balanced budget amendment.
On the House side, Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., warned that the House’s version of "Cut, Cap, and Balance" is deceptive, even in name.
“This is not a garden-variety balanced budget amendment. No one should be calling it that.... This implants two mechanisms into the Constitution of the United States to address the deficit the way the Republicans want to do it: slashing Medicare and protecting special interest tax breaks.”
Dan Friedman and Ben Terris contributed contributed to this article.
This article appears in the July 19, 2011, edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.