Senate Plans to Take First Vote on Debt Deal, House to Follow

Speaker of the House John Boehner arrives at the Capitol for the day October 16, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Billy House
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Billy House
Oct. 16, 2013, 5:08 a.m.

Speak­er John Boehner will al­low the House to take the vote Wed­nes­day on a Sen­ate-pre­pared agree­ment to lift the debt ceil­ing and end 16 days of shuttered fed­er­al gov­ern­ment — though many of his con­ser­vat­ive House col­leagues don’t sup­port the meas­ure.

Such a move by Boehner comes as the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Thursday dead­line for hik­ing the na­tion’s $16.7 tril­lion bor­row­ing cap is less than 24 hours away. Boehner has said he would do everything he can to keep the na­tion from de­fault.

The House had been ex­pec­ted to vote pri­or to the Sen­ate on the meas­ure as a way around some of the pro­ced­ur­al hurdles that could have been put up in the Sen­ate, un­der an earli­er strategy hatched by Sen­ate and House lead­ers.

But up­dated plans are for the Sen­ate to now go first as early as Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon or early even­ing—with the House to fol­low with a vote in the even­ing.

Help­ing to smooth the way for the Sen­ate to take that ini­tial ac­tion was Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who told re­port­ers Wed­nes­day that he would not at­tempt to block the meas­ure.

The 233 House Re­pub­lic­ans are ex­pec­ted to gath­er be­hind closed doors at 3 p.m. to hear their lead­er ex­plain why and how he in­tends to bring the meas­ure to the floor in that cham­ber— and where the party’s ef­forts on fisc­al is­sues might go from there.

For now, Boehner’s of­fice of­fi­cially says there is no fi­nal de­cision on a plan that would re­quire most Demo­crats to join with a couple dozen mod­er­ate and oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans to pass the bill. “No de­cision has been made about how or when a po­ten­tial Sen­ate agree­ment could be voted on in the House,” said a Boehner spokes­man, Mi­chael Steel.

But oth­er law­makers and aides say a vote will oc­cur Wed­nes­day. And Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi and her House Demo­crats are viewed as crit­ic­al to get­ting the ini­tial pas­sage of the meas­ure in the House.

“Boehner will need Pelosi votes,” said one seni­or Demo­crat­ic aide who is fa­mil­i­ar with what he de­scribed as the cross-party ne­go­ti­ations that have been oc­cur­ring Wed­nes­day morn­ing. “Demo­crats will be united,” an­oth­er seni­or Demo­crat­ic lead­er­ship aide said, in­dic­at­ing that most of the 200 House Demo­crats are on board with the plan.

The Sen­ate-pre­pared deal will al­low an ex­ten­sion of the debt lim­it un­til Feb. 7, sub­ject to a con­gres­sion­al dis­ap­prov­al pro­cess sim­il­ar to what was in­cluded in the Budget Con­trol Act of 2011. Un­der that lan­guage, if the debt in­crease is not ap­proved in both cham­bers — or is ve­toed by the pres­id­ent and is not over­rid­den — the debt lim­it would in­crease.

The meas­ure also in­cludes lan­guage to re­open gov­ern­ment un­til Jan. 15 by re­start­ing fund­ing at cur­rent levels through Jan. 15.

There also is in­cluded an agree­ment for the House and Sen­ate to go to a budget con­fer­ence, and back­pay for fur­loughed fed­er­al work­ers. The meas­ure also would re­quire what is de­scribed by seni­or Demo­crat­ic aides as “con­firm­a­tion of the ef­fect­ive­ness of ex­ist­ing in­come veri­fic­a­tion pro­cesses for those re­ceiv­ing gov­ern­ment sub­sidies” for health care un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act.

Wheth­er Boehner might ul­ti­mately face the wrath of hard­line mem­bers of his Re­pub­lic­an con­fer­ence for al­low­ing sucha vote a Sen­ate-pre­pared bill to re­solve the debt ceil­ing and gov­ern­ment shut­down is open for de­bate. But Demo­crat­ic Rep. John Yar­muth of Ken­tucky is among those provid­ing glow­ing en­dorse­ments for he sees as polit­ic­al bravery by Boehner.

“Today, he is my hero,” said Yar­muth, stand­ing out­side of the House cham­ber.

The de­cision to move ahead with the Sen­ate bill on Wed­nes­day comes after a House GOP meas­ure that Boehner un­veiled to his mem­bers Tues­day un­raveled through the day be­cause of vari­ous ob­jec­tions, mostly from con­ser­vat­ives.

After passing the bill, House GOP lead­ers will al­low mem­bers to ad­journ for the rest of the week — and pos­sibly in­to early next week - ac­cord­ing to law­makers and con­gres­sion­al aides fa­mil­i­ar with the plans.

But once that hap­pens, House mem­bers will be giv­en the green light to leave — and get star­ted on spin­ning what’s just happened to con­stitu­ents back home in their dis­tricts.

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