Update: Sure enough, NO HOUSE VOTE TONIGHT ON FISCAL IMPASSE PLAN, LAWMAKER SAYS
In a repeat of the Sequester farce, in which Boehner was unable to even get the needed votes to pass the House Republicans’ version of their own bill, the debt ceiling impasse is becoming a sequester sequel deja vu when McConnell and Joe Biden had to hammer out a deal over the impotent political corpse of John Boehner. The reason, as various beltway journalists report, in this case the NRO, that House Republicans are now set to postpone tonight’s vote on their plan to end the fiscal impasse is that “The votes aren’t there,” says a leadership aide. “We’ve been amending the bill all day, but we’ve been unable to get people around this strategy.” As the NRO’s Robert Costa adds, this development leaves Speaker John Boehner with few options as Thursday’s debt-ceiling deadline nears, and it throws the action back toward the Senate, which has been working on a bipartisan package.
The tension started off earlier in the afternoon, when the conservative outfit Heritage Action said it opposed the measure, and rank-and-file lawmakers normally supportive of leadership expressed alarm that they had shut down the government and would get nothing for it except a punitive measure hurting their own staff’s healthcare, according to GOP chiefs of staff.
The Republican-controlled House will vote Tueday night on a plan to reopen the federal government and avoid a first-ever default on the nation’s debt, only two days before the government exhausts its ability to borrow money.
But it was far from clear whether the Republican proposal, if approved, could attract enough support in the Democratic-controlled Senate to end Washington’s political crisis. The plan contained several provisions that Democrats have strongly opposed.
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Even the inklings of a House proposal that emerged earlier Tuesday drew immediate condemnation from Democrats, primarily because the plan would include significant changes to President Obama’s signature health-care law. Unlike the Senate proposal, the House plan originally included a two-year repeal of a medical device tax and a provision eliminating the employer health-care contribution for members of Congress and White House officials.
Later Tuesday, House Republicans regrouped around the new version of their bill, which dropped the medical device tax provision, and officials said they would bring it the House floor tonight. The new proposal was also unlikely to win bipartisan support, in part because it would fund federal agencies only through Dec. 15, creating the threat of another government shutdown just before Christmas. But it could serve as a framework for further negotiations.
Which brings us to what Goldman, so far accurately, predicted would happen earlier today: namely a delay which pushes the US beyond the symbolic October 17 X-Date, loudly bandied about by fearmongers such as Jack Lew as a the drop dead date, when in reality the X-Date when the US truly runs out of cash, is a range between October 22 and November 1, something the GOP is well aware of.
A deal could still be enacted by October 17, but there are reasons to think it could go a little longer. First, although Congress has taken the October 17 deadline surprisingly seriously, the Treasury will still have funds after that date, and Congress knows this. Second, if the House amends the Senate bill or passes its own instead, this will delay enactment.
It now seems that the House can not even pass its own bill, which means the GOP will have to hammer something out between the Senate and the House versions, steamrolling over Boehner once again.
Third, the Senate could present a procedural obstacle if even one member objects, since consideration can take as long as five days in that chamber. Fourth, if the House is eventually forced to take the Senate plan for a lack of viable alternative, Republican leaders are unlikely to want to hold that vote until the deadline, if not later. There is still a chance Congress will manage to get the debt limit raised by October 17, but a resolution later this week or even this coming weekend also appears possible.
In other words, as a result of today’s most recent fiasco, it appears virtually assured that no deal will be hammered in the next 30 or so hours before the first X-Date, and the US will enter the cross into the dreaded X-Date time horizon. The only two questions then are i) who will negotiate the final deal and what will it look like, and ii) when will this take place. Because once the October 17 deadline crosses, which immediately removes the impetus for action, it is likely that the House will once again stall as long as possible, this time making the November 1 Social Security payout deadline the truly drop dead one, beyond which the US will indeed default unless there is some concrete deal on the table.