House Republicans emerged from a lengthy closed-door meeting Friday with plans to vote on legislation next week that would link a $2.4-trillion debt ceiling increase with a spending cut proposal and balanced budget amendment, proposals President Obama and Democrats have dismissed.
The so-called cut-cap-and-balance legislation has slim chances of passage in the Democratic-controlled Senate. But for GOP leaders the vote gives conservatives one more opportunity to raise the nation’s debt limit on their terms.
“We’re in the fourth quarter here,” said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). “Let’s get through that vote and we’ll make decisions about what will come after.”
Debt talks at the White House are on hold Friday as congressional leaders confer with their rank-and-file to assess which proposals on the table could win enough votes to pass.
President Obama has said he wants an answer from Congress within 36 hours or he may reconvene negotiations. Washington has a matter of days to compile a package in advance of the Aug. 2 deadline to raise the borrowing limit and avert a catastrophic federal default.
Republicans have been insisting on steep spending cuts in exchange for their votes to raise the debt ceiling. But Democrats say budgets cannot be balanced on the backs of those who rely on government services, and have pressed for a deficit reduction package that includes tax revenue that the GOP has refused.
At the closed session Friday morning, Republicans heard a lengthy presentation from a budget expert at the Bipartisan Policy Center. The session stressed the hike in interest rates that would hit the government – and ordinary Americans – if the nation’s debt rating is downgraded. Wall Street has warned government bonds would lose their top rating if the Treasury Department defaults.
Democrats also met behind closed doors Friday morning.
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the minority whip, questioned why the GOP was putting forward proposals that have no chance of passing with such little time remaining to strike a debt ceiling deal.
“That means not walking out of the room, not washing their hands and saying, ‘We’re going to proceed in a unilateral fashion, we are going to present a bill that we know can’t pass the United States Senate and the president of the United States would not sign,’” Hoyer said.
Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called the “cut, cap and balance” plan as previously proposed, “outrageous” and a “Trojan horse to bring the [Rep. Paul] Ryan plan back again.”
Democratic leaders claimed they had not seen the details of a proposal by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev).