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Senate Leaders Await Fate of House Debt Deal

Bill Clark/Roll Call

Despite the overlap, the Senate was in a holding pattern while awaiting a House vote on the Boehner framework. The measure had been scheduled to come to the House floor Wednesday, but a spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) announced late Tuesday that the vote would be postponed by a day while Republicans reworked the legislation. A Congressional Budget Office score released Tuesday evening showed that the bill would cut just $1 billion from the deficit next year, sending Republicans scrambling to find more savings to ensure that the bill’s spending cuts exceed its $1 trillion debt limit increase.

If the Speaker’s bill fails, the Senate will have the only active bill in the procedural pipeline. If Boehner’s plan passes, Reid can quickly dispatch it to the floor and defeat it, setting the table for a possible final compromise between the leaders, aides have indicated.

But the clock is ticking, and neither chamber has much time to waste on legislation that has no chance of ending up on President Barack Obama’s desk next week.  

Complicating the picture for an endgame, especially one pinned to the House offering, was the negative reaction Tuesday to the Boehner plan from both tea party conservatives and establishment rank-and-file GOP Senators.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has not shied away from bipartisan compromise in the past, slammed the Boehner plan in a statement. “I cannot in good conscience support the Boehner proposal in its current construct. The Boehner proposal, no matter how well-intentioned, will be a straight-jacket on real spending reform,” Graham said. “It locks in spending levels well beyond what our nation can afford. … I also have little hope that yet another joint committee of Congress will bring about real change.”

Of the potential stumbling blocks left, the most serious seem to be the length of the debt limit extension and conservative Senators, who have the power to delay for days any bill, even one that has the support of a filibuster-proof majority.

Sen. Rand Paul, one of the tea party’s top champions in the Senate, talked Tuesday of potentially filibustering any plan — Reid’s, Boehner’s or otherwise.

“We haven’t made a final decision on that,” Paul said of a filibuster. “A lot of us will get together and talk and see. There are several of us who will come out against the Boehner plan.” Asked whether he might bow to pressure from his own leaders if they asked him to forgo a filibuster, the Kentucky Republican said, “I don’t ever really feel pressure because I think they know I’m going to do what I said I would do in the campaign. I’m not really open to being persuaded about things that will not lead to any reform.”

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