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

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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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