Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., referring to prospects of quick passage of a debt ceiling bill once a deal was struck, said last week that "magic things can happen here in Congress in a very short period of time.”
Now, with an agreement in place to raise the debt ceiling and cut spending by about $2.4 trillion, it is time for congressional leaders to make the legislative magic happen. The main challenge will be assembling a coalition of mostly Republicans and perhaps 50 Democrats to ensure House passage.
The office of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said that the lower chamber will vote on the debt deal first, then the Senate. The vote has not yet been scheduled, although aides were hopeful it could occur Monday evening.
Reid said he hoped to win agreement from all senators for the Senate to then vote on passage of the bill Monday night, but Senate aides said that given the hour and a demand by several GOP conservatives to allow a day to review the bill, a final vote is more likely to come Tuesday. Leadership aides and senators said they expect adequate votes to clear a 60-vote threshold that would be part of a unanimous consent agreement.
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Any senator can force delays that bar passage of the measure until after the end of Tuesday--the deadline set by the Treasury Department for the country to begin defaulting on its debts. GOP conservatives are most likely to slow a vote. But Senate leadership aides in both parties said they expected members to sign off on a unanimous-consent deal allowing a vote by Tuesday with a 60-vote threshold. GOP senators were grumbling on Monday about defense cuts in the bill. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he was opposed. Still, aides expect the bill to clear 60 votes with backing from leadership in both parties.
"We're not gonna hold it up," said Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., a likely "no" vote.
DeMint said he and other conservatives will insist on a day to read the bill with a vote on Tuesday but would likely not otherwise slow it. "I think most Republicans would agree with that," he said.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., an opponent of the bill on the left, also indicated he will vote against but not slow the bill.
The House may prove tougher. One lawmaker estimated that 175 GOP members, out of 240, would vote for the bill. That would require the support of at least 50 Democrats to get it over the goal line. That should be doable, with votes from moderates and help from Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md. Opposition from the Democrats’ Progressive and Congressional Black caucuses and a lukewarm reception from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will probably mean significant Democratic opposition.
Hoyer said on Monday he believed that roughly 150 of the 240 House Republicans will need to vote for the deal.
Billy House contributed contributed to this article.
This article appears in the August 1, 2011 edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.