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Michele Bachmann slams John Boehner’s plan; White House talks veto

Washington Bureau

House Speaker John Boehner’s proposal to raise the federal debt ceiling took fire from on all sides Tuesday, with the White House raising the prospect of a veto while presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann condemned it.

The attacks came as Boehner, along with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, struggled to round up votes in support of the proposal in advance of a hoped-for vote later in the week. At midday, it appeared the bill still didn’t have enough GOP votes to pass the House.

The White House reiterated its disapproval of Boehner’s plan, which would split the debt-ceiling approval process into two stages, slash federal spending and establish a bipartisan congressional committee to identify more cuts.

Even as spokesman Jay Carney said that he didn’t believe a veto threat was necessary because Boehner’s proposal was unlikely to clear the Democratic-controlled Senate, the White House released a statement that came short of a pledge that President Obama would veto the legislation should it reach his desk.

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If the bill is presented to Obama, “the president’s senior advisors would recommend that he veto this bill,” the statement said.

The speaker’s office responded by saying that the Boehner bill remained the best hope for resolving the debt-ceiling stalemate, even as the government veered ever closer to default. It also noted that Obama, as he did Monday evening, refrained from issuing an out-and-out veto threat.

“The House plan is the only one with a pathway to the president’s desk, and we appreciate his apparent willingness to sign it,” said Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck. “By signing the House bill, the president could quickly end the crisis atmosphere he’s created and demonstrate he’s serious about cutting spending.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) predicted that Boehner’s bill would be “dead on arrival” if it reaches the upper chamber, and he continued to promote his own bill, which is similar to Boehner’s measure in many respects, but differs in how trillions of dollars in savings are tabulated.

Boehner’s gambit is that his bill will be the only one left standing if Reid’s plan fails to survive a prospective GOP filibuster. But Boehner’s own caucus continued to stir up trouble for him Tuesday, led by Bachmann, who has emerged as a megaphone-carrying thorn in the speaker’s side.

“This Republican will not vote to raise the debt ceiling,” Bachmann said at a campaign event in Iowa, according to ABC News. “My colleagues will have to come to their own conclusion.”

Of Boehner’s bill, Bachmann said, “The premise is wrong.”

Bachmann’s opposition came as no surprise. The Minnesotan has consistently opposed raising the $14.3-trillion debt limit unless the legislation contained a game-changer, such as repeal of the healthcare-overhaul legislation. Nevertheless, it underscored the problems facing Boehner and Cantor as they endeavored to convince skeptical members of their caucus that a U.S. default could be a political debacle for the party.

Another top conservative in the House, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, head of the Republican Study Committee, said Boehner doesn’t yet have enough GOP votes to pass his plan and would need Democrats to push the bill over the top. But the Nancy Pelosi-led Democrats may withhold their support in the hope of preserving Reid’s bill as the only viable option.

And a third high-profile conservative, Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, told the Salt Lake Tribune that he would not vote in favor of Boehner’s plan.

“I don’t see anyway I can support it,” he said. “I plan to stand tall on principle. Too many in the past have caved. That is why we are in this mess.”

Boehner’s and Cantor’s efforts were bolstered, however, when the influential U.S. Chamber of Commerce said Tuesday it supports the plan.

“This legislation is critical. Default on debt obligations is not an acceptable option. The time for Congress to act is now,” the chamber’s top lobbyist, R. Bruce Josten, wrote in a letter to members Tuesday. It called Boehner’s bill “a responsible approach.”

“A default on the obligations of the United States would most assuredly cause severe, immediate, and pervasive economic harm in the form of higher interest rates, a decline in the dollar, a drop in the stock markets, higher oil prices, and the loss of economic growth and jobs,” Josten wrote.

If Boehner fails to attract enough GOP support in the House, the onus could again be on Reid, who may be forced to revise his bill to appease Republicans in the chamber.

Kathleen Hennessey of theWashington Bureau contributed to this report.


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