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House GOP Wary of Plan B

File Photo
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (above) is working with Majority Leader Harry Reid on a debt limit deal.

House Republican leaders are at least a week away from pressuring their Members to support a Plan B debt deal under discussion in the Senate.

House and Senate leaders are trying to show their rank-and-file Members that they are serious about passing a Cut, Cap and Balance proposal, which drew a stern veto threat from President Barack Obama on Monday, and will therefore not turn to the backup plan first broached by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) until they have considered the first piece of legislation. Both chambers are slated to take up the conservative-backed Cut, Cap and Balance plan this week, but whether that will be enough to win over GOP votes for the eventual debt package remains to be seen.

Rep. John Shimkus said he will vote for the Republican Study Committee-backed plan this week. But the Illinois Republican said in an interview, “The question is what happens after that.”

“We have to be on record, and I think a lot of us wish this vote came earlier,” Shimkus said. But absent a sweeping deal to drastically cut spending in exchange for a debt ceiling increase, “I don’t see where the votes are,” he said.

Republican lawmakers have also demanded a balanced budget amendment be considered before a bipartisan debt deal can come to the floor, but GOP leaders have quietly scrapped plans to bring up the constitutional amendment this week — a move that allows them to round up more supporters and focus on the Cut, Cap and Balance plan. The scheduling change also pushes back when a debt deal could come before the House. The Treasury Department has said the government will begin defaulting on its obligations on Aug. 2 if there is no deal to raise the debt ceiling.

The House is scheduled to adjourn Aug. 5 for the summer break, although recess plans are in flux for both chambers. The House was scheduled to be in recess this week, but that district work period was scrapped earlier this month so the chamber could work through budget and debt matters. Earlier, the Senate canceled its July Fourth recess to focus on the same issues.

And on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced his chamber would stay in session every day, including weekends, until the debt ceiling is raised.

Shimkus said his GOP colleagues are skeptical of high-level talks in the Senate, where Reid and McConnell are working to strike a deal. For too many House Republicans, the Senate talks harken back to the spring’s negotiations between Obama and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on a continuing resolution to keep the government funded.

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