The Senate will take up, and vote down, House Speaker John Boehner’s bill to raise the federal debt ceiling immediately after its anticipated House passage Thursday evening, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced.
“As soon as the House completes its vote tonight, the Senate will move to take up that bill. It will be defeated,” Reid, said in floor remarks Thursday. “No Democrat will vote for a short-term Band-Aid that would put our economy at risk and put the nation back in this untenable situation a few short months from now.”
Reid sent a letter last night to Boehner in which all 53 Democratic Caucus members vowed to vote against the measure if it passes.
Boehner was still working to round up votes Thursday. But both parties now expect his measure to narrowly pass over Democratic opposition.
Republicans argue Boehner’s bill is the only option for averting default before the August 2 deadline to raise the debt ceiling. Reid intends to amend it with aspects of his own, alternative proposal and send the bill back to the House. He will need support from from Senate Republicans and in particular Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to alter the bill.
In his own floor speech Thursday, McConnell touted his support for Boehner’s bill and urged Democrats and President Obama, whose staff has threatened to veto the measure, to reconsider their opposition.
“It’s inconceivable to me that they would actually block the only bill that could get through the House of Representatives and prevent a default right now,” McConnell said.
The speech came as GOP aides said that, contrary to assertions by Senate Democrats, the Kentucky senator is not negotiating a compromise measure and endgame with the White House or Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., -- either personally or through staff.
“Senator McConnell is talking about one plan, the House bill,” McConnell spokesman John Ashbrook said.
But senior staffers in both parties, asking not to be identified discussing sensitive conversations, said McConnell and Biden spoke repeatedly yesterday about the debt ceiling. A GOP aide said the conversations did not amount to negotiation.
The prospect of the Senate altering his bill hurts Boehner’s effort to line up House GOP votes with the argument they will not have to vote again on the measure. That factor may partly explain McConnell's public stance.
But his position also increases the danger for Democrats that the GOP leader will not play ball in crafting a compromise measure, forcing Democrats to take or leave the Boehner bill. Reid’s statement Thursday was his latest effort to foreclose that chance.
McConnell on Thursday also noted that the Senate Democrats’ letter to Boehner raised one objection to Boehner’s bill, that it would require a second round of deficit cuts early next year before another debt ceiling increase would be allowed.
“Democrat leaders and the president himself have endorsed every feature of this legislation except one, and that’s the fact that it doesn’t allow the president to avoid another national debate about spending and debt until after the next presidential election,” McConnell said.