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Debt Deal Watch; Boehner Having Trouble Rounding Up Enough House Votes; Politico: Biden Says Tea Party Has ‘Acted Like Terrorists;’ Update: Mr. Gaffetastic denies smear; Giffords’ return eclipses anticlimactic House passage, 269-161

By Doug Powers  •  July 31, 2011 12:59 PM

**Written by Doug Powers

(Scroll down for updates)

I’ve got C-Span 2 on right now because, well, it isn’t football season yet — that and a vote may take place soon in the Senate on the Reid bill (I’ve discovered that the Detroit Lions aren’t the only thing that can make me yell at the TV on a Sunday afternoon). The vote still tentatively scheduled for 1 p.m. est, but it’s still unclear if it’ll go off as planned because other things are in the works.

Reportedly a deal is near:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers were close to a last-gasp $3 trillion deal on Sunday to raise the borrowing limit and assure financial markets that the United States will avoid a potentially catastrophic default.

“We’re very close,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the top Senate Republican who is playing a key role in the debt ceiling negotiations.

White House senior adviser David Plouffe said there was general agreement on a deal that would cut the deficit in two stages. It was first time the White House had acknowledged that both sides were close to a deal.

The first $1 trillion in cuts have been largely agreed on by lawmakers. Under the emerging deal described by congressional aides, a further $1.8 trillion would be recommended by a special committee appointed by Congress and automatic measures would implement the planned cuts if Congress failed to vote on them.
The tentative agreement proposes setting up a committee, to be made up of members from both parties, that would be charged with negotiating the tough elements of reforming popular but expensive entitlement programs as well as the U.S. tax code.

In a mini-debate on the Senate floor debate between John McCain and Dick Durbin that’s ongoing as I write this, McCain admitted that at the current time there’s no way a balanced budget amendment could pass the Senate, but did appear optimistic that it might happen in 2012 “after the Senator from Illinois is defeated in the next election.” Heh. Hopefully, but it won’t happen without a little help from the hobbits, Senator McCain.

The Democrats are invoking Reagan so much I’m half expecting a Senate screening of Hellcats of the Navy before the day is out.

Consider this today’s debt ceiling open thread, and I’ll post updates as the day goes along as the situation warrants.


Fox News:

Democrats’ debt-ceiling bill failed to clear a key Senate hurdle Sunday afternoon, putting the onus on bipartisan negotiators to come up with an alternative plan with just two days to go until the Treasury runs out of ways to pay all of America’s bills.

The vote on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s plan was expected to fail. Sixty votes were required to advance the proposal, and it fell far short in a 50-49 roll call.

And this, as we discussed Friday, is no surprise:

Reid won over just one Republican supporter, Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, for his bill Sunday afternoon. On the Democratic side, he lost Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent aligned with Democrats.

Update II:

According to Politico, Harry Reid has signed off on a new agreement:

The White House and Republican leaders closed in Sunday on a debt ceiling deal giving President Barack Obama greater certainty in managing the Treasury’s borrowing needs while making a joint commitment to major deficit reductions without any explicit concessions by the GOP on new tax revenues.

Late in the afternoon, a statement from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said: “Senator Reid has signed off on the debt-ceiling agreement pending caucus approval.”

A vote on the new compromise could come tonight.

Update III (9:45 p.m.):

Deal struck:

Ending a perilous stalemate, President Barack Obama announced agreement Sunday night with Republican congressional leaders on a compromise to avoid the nation’s first-ever financial default. The deal would cut more than $2 trillion from federal spending over a decade.

There will be no voting in the House and Senate until probably well into Monday as Reid and Boehner try to round up the votes. No telling yet on how difficult or easy that might be. But if it passes Obama will no doubt sign it immediately, which will be yet another nail in the coffin of that “five day” rule.

A transcript of Obama’s debt deal announcement is here.

If this turns out to be the case, so much for the “every dollar in debt ceiling increase must be met by a dollar in cuts” demand:

Obama said leaders of both political parties reached a broad deal Sunday night to raise the government’s debt ceiling while cutting spending. Earlier Sunday, congressional aides said the agreement would raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion in three stages and provide initially for roughly $900 billion in spending cuts over 10 years.

Update number whatever Roman numeral we’re on now:

For GOP members of the House who were swayed by the inclusion of a balanced budget amendment, this could make the bill a tougher sell this time around:

A compromise debt ceiling agreement brokered by the White House and congressional Republicans would not require congressional passage of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution as a condition for a second-round increase in the debt ceiling.

The deal does require the House and Senate to vote on a balanced budget amendment sometime in the last calendar quarter of this year. But not requiring congressional passage is a significant change from the proposal the House passed on Friday.

There’s no danger for the Democrats in agreeing to a vote on a balanced budget amendment this year or next year. A balanced budget amendment requirement that has the life span of a mayfly with a meth habit and expires just about the time the GOP could be hypothetically wind up in control of the House, Senate and White House isn’t really a selling point as far as Republicans are concerned — or at least shouldn’t be.

David Vitter: This might be an accomplishment politically, but it isn’t fiscally.

Update V:

Outrageous outrage in today’s New York Times editorial:

There is little to like about the tentative agreement between Congressional leaders and the White House except that it happened at all. The deal would avert a catastrophic government default, immediately and probably through the end of 2012. The rest of it is a nearly complete capitulation to the hostage-taking demands of Republican extremists. It will hurt programs for the middle class and poor, and hinder an economic recovery.

The Times got the “hostage” memo.

John Conyers calls for protest… at the White House.

Update VI:

Potential problems in the House. From The Hill:

The debt-limit deal announced on Sunday night is expected to attract more than 60 votes in the Senate, but its outlook in the House is much more cloudy.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will need Democratic votes to clear the bill through the lower chamber. How many remains unclear. A total of 216 lawmakers must vote in favor of the package for it to clear the House, and Boehner will need to rely on members from both parties.

A list of those who are in, out and the “maybes” is here. Some Democrats and Republicans are lining up against, but for different reasons. Two examples: Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) called it a “sugar-coated Satan sandwich” (I’ll take that as a “no”), and Joe Walsh (R-ocky Mountain Way) said “we can do better and we have to do better.”

Update VII:

According to Politico, behind closed doors, Vice President Biden is urging the Democrats to reach out to those members of Congress they disagree with in the spirit of bipartisanship. Just kidding!

**Written by Doug Powers

Twitter @ThePowersThatBe

Update VIII: Biden denies he used the “terrorism word.” He was just an enabling bystander who watched everyone else vent:

Vice President Joe Biden tells CBS News that published reports that he compared Tea Party-linked lawmakers to “terrorists” during a closed-door meeting Monday are “absolutely not true.”

“I did not use the terrorism word,” Biden told CBS Evening News anchor and managing editor Scott Pelley.

Politico, citing “several sources in the room,” reported Monday afternoon that the vice president, during a closed-door meeting with House Democrats about the deal to raise the debt limit, agreed with an argument by Rep. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, who reportedly asserted that “[w]e have negotiated with terrorists.”

The report said the vice president asserted in response, “They have acted like terrorists.”

Biden told Pelley he let lawmakers “vent” about the deal, which includes spending cuts but may not include revenue increases. (Some liberal House Democrats have vowed not to back the deal.) But he says he did not assert that he agreed with the terrorism comparison.

“What happened was there were some people who said they felt like they were being held hostage by terrorists,” he said. “I never said that they were terrorists or weren’t terrorists, I just let them vent.”

Update: 7:11pm Eastern

The House passed the Bipartisan Crappy Meal just now…final tally 269-161. See my Twitter page for all the live updates. The return of Democrat Rep. Gabby Giffords to the floor overshadowed the otherwise unpleasant, business-as-usual on the House floor.

Interesting juxtaposition of Giffords’ return with the continued, incivil rhetoric of the Tea Party-bashing Dems, eh?

Update: Here’s the House roll call vote.

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