Debt and Debt Limit  (Oct. 22)

Mike & Co. —

The pattern is familiar from last month’s CR and almost every must-pass piece of legislation considered by Congress the past five years — there is majority support for a solution but it cannot come to a vote until the House has considered an alternative proposed by the Freedom Caucus that cannot pass in the Senate and would be vetoed in any event.

There is a Caucus-supported (hopelessly outlandish) alternative regarding the debt limit on the table but, distracted and disorganized more than usual during this Boehner-Ryan interregnum, House leadership hasn’t settled on a way forward on consideration  with time running out.

That’s the bottom line right now on the debt limit.  Details below.  




House GOP leadership is still searching for a plan for raising the debt limit now that a proposal pushed by conservatives does not appear to have enough support and is unlikely to receive a vote this week.

This afternoon, Nancy Pelosi summarized the timing in the House on the bid to increase the debt limit as follows:  “It’s only a matter of hours until we have to act in the House. We have to act really by tomorrow. This calendar of chaos … is really coming down to hours, days, weeks.”

The President has long insisted that Congress send him a clean debt limit bill. Such a bill could probably clear Congress. Senate Republicans had planned to take up the House bill and amend it in a manner that could pass the Senate, potentially making it a clean debt-ceiling measure to attract Democratic votes. But GOP leaders said they were planning contingency plans in case the House stumbles, a number of Senators have said.

Generally, Senate Republicans are trying to counter the image created by the disarray in the House by projecting a sense of calm and ability to govern.  Accordingly, here is Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn’s take today on where things stand:  “Shame on us if we haven’t sort of thought about that in advance and war-gamed it.  It’s possible we could pass something, and we send it back to the House, and they pass it before it gets to the president. We’re getting ready to get on a glide path to get to a conclusion here.”

The alternative on the table would lift the debt limit until 2017, attempt to freeze all agency regulations for at least a year, try to force Congress to stay in session until it passes all appropriations bills and forbid the Senate from filibustering spending bills after October.

The consensus is that it is a non-starter itself but a first step before the inevitable: a vote on a debt limit bill without strings.

But the next step is uncertain.  House GOP leadership is likely to abandon tentative plans to vote on the alternative, hatched by the Republican Study Committee, throwing into question how Congress is going to lift the borrowing limit before a November 3 deadline.

House leadership was considering a vote on the proposal, tune Terms of Credit Act, tomorrow, but GOP insiders said they will not put the bill on the floor.  A House whip check last night showed the party several dozen votes short.   It’s back to the drawing board now — “We’ll continue conversations with our members on how best to address the debt ceiling,” a Republican leadership aide said today.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy made it clear this afternoon that there is no emergency and that his colleagues are hard at work and being creative: “We’ve got a lot of different ideas cooking.  We’ll have to wait and see.”


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