Lawmakers have lingering gripes about the $2.4 trillion debt ceiling compromise cut between President Obama and congressional leaders, but the legislation is on track for the president’s signature as early as Tuesday, closing a major chapter in the ongoing battle between the White House and a divided Congress.
The office of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said the House will vote first on the package, a signal that leadership is confident the bill will pass the 216-vote hurdle before heading to the Senate, where a vote is likely on Tuesday and equally assured passage. The House Rules Committee was scheduled to meet on Monday afternoon to set the terms of the floor debate.
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House Republicans will lose a significant bloc of their right flank, but House Democrats were expected to make up the difference this time around. The House-passed version of the bill garnered no Democratic support on the first vote. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla., told MSNBC that he remains a no. “I haven't heard anything over the last couple weeks that I could support,” he said.
Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., also appearing on MSNBC, said Republicans would need to deliver at least 150 votes, which means Democrats would need to provide at least 66 votes. “I think that the [GOP] leadership is going to be tested to see whether or not they can deliver,” Hoyer said. “They haven't been very good at it on the House side delivering for what they believe was the best way forward.”
Republicans remain under pressure from outside conservative advocacy groups, including Heritage Action, to oppose the bill because it does not cut enough spending. Similarly, liberal activist groups have likewise targeted the deal because it raises no revenue. “This deal is the exact opposite of what the majority of Americans support,” said the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
Vice President Joe Biden was dispatched to Capitol Hill to offer assurances to Democrats that they weren’t getting a raw deal. The White House has pushed back against the notion that Obama “gave away the store,” in the words of one senior administration official. “I think it’s important for us as a party to see that we’re serious about deficit reduction but we’re going to try to do it based on their principles and values,” the official said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., put a mostly positive spin on the deal. “We promised our caucus we would fight any cuts to beneficiaries in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, and that has been accomplished,” said Pelosi. “We could not accept anything other than a full, at least 18-month extension of the debt limit rather than the 6-month that the Speaker was proposing, and that has been accomplished.” But Pelosi also said, “We’re very concerned that a bill that makes these big cuts and has no – not one red cent from the wealthiest people in our country, no revenue – is very disconcerting.”
Across the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., expressed confidence that the deal will pass and the usual suspects, such as Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said they would not filibuster the bill as long as it garners at least 60 votes. At least two prominent Republicans, Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida, said they will oppose the bill. Graham faces tea party pressure in his home state, and Rubio harbors national ambitions.
This article appears in the August 1, 2011 edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.