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Roll Call

House Could Vote Wednesday on Boehner Plan

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Speaker John Boehner wades through tour groups as he leaves a meeting with House Republican leaders in his office Monday.

Speaker John Boehner on Monday will present his latest plan to raise the nation’s debt limit, one that will initially cut spending by $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years, slash entitlement spending and set up an October showdown over a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Boehner is expected to hold a vote on the bill Wednesday, aides said, and a Congressional Budget Office scoring of the measure will have to be ready before then.

“I don’t think our Members would let us vote on it without a CBO score,” a leadership aide noted.

According to a GOP aide familiar with the plan, the Ohio Republican will propose that in exchange for a $1 trillion immediate debt ceiling increase, Republicans will require a package of cuts to discretionary spending worth $1.2 trillion over the next decade.

The bill will also include caps on future spending and a “sequestration provision” that would force automatic cuts to spending if Congress and the administration do not meet those caps.

A joint committee would also be created with the mandate of identifying an additional $1.8 trillion in deficit reductions, which would include discretionary spending and entitlement programs. The committee’s recommendations would receive up-or-down votes in the House and Senate, and if enacted, the president would then have the authority to request an additional $1.6 trillion in debt ceiling authority early next year.

Significantly, Boehner’s plan will include two “governors” on President Barack Obama’s debt limit authority next year. Under the bill, the president’s request would have to be some percentage less than what the joint committee proposes and would have an overall cap for debt limit increase authority, so that even if the committee identifies trillions in spending reductions, Obama cannot ask for similar increases in borrowing authority.

The committee would be made up of 12 lawmakers — with each GOP and Democratic leader of both chambers appointing three committee members. The bill would eliminate the possibility of a filibuster in the Senate and would set a simple majority vote, rather than the 60 votes that have become essential to moving legislation in that chamber.

According to a leadership aide, the committee would have “incredibly broad legislative jurisdiction. Essentially anything that would help reduce the deficit.” However, while that authority would in theory extend to increasing taxes, Boehner and other Republicans will stack the deck by only appointing Members they are sure won’t agree to any tax increases. “We’ll be appointing the Members, and we won’t be appointing any Republicans that will vote for tax hikes,” a second aide said.

Republicans, particularly in the House, have been frustrated by the Senate’s bipartisan “gang of six,” in large part because conservative icon Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has agreed to significant increases in revenues and has long been open to the possibility of some tax increases — a major breach of GOP orthodoxy.

Republicans insisted their plan is a viable vehicle for moving forward, despite the fact that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) this weekend rejected a proposal that was reportedly very similar to Boehner’s current plan.

“We believe this will be a very credible proposal that the Senate will have a very tough time rejecting,” a senior leadership aide said.

Republican aides also sought to downplay the chances of Reid being able to pass his own version out of the Senate. “I don’t think it has much chance of passing the Senate. I don’t think there’s much chance of ships passing in the night,” a leadership aide said.

Boehner’s plan will also set up a debate this fall over a balanced budget amendment, which would take place sometime after Oct. 1 but before the end of the year. According to the aide, delaying the vote until later in the fall will allow “people time to build sufficient support” to pass an amendment through both chambers.

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