House Leaders Race to Gather Votes for Jobs Bill, Debt-Limit Hike

Posted December 16, 2009 at 2:31pm

House Democratic leaders were racing Wednesday to secure votes for a jobs package and a debt limit hike — the last two pieces of business standing between them and breaking for the year — as moderate and vulnerable Democrats nervous about soaring deficits mounted a last-minute stand against the measures. Leaders and top aides were optimistic they would round up the support they needed to clear the bills by the end of the day, in time for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to lead a bipartisan delegation to the international climate summit in Copenhagen. But they also acknowledged they were short as they headed down to the wire. “We’re gonna get ’em,— House Majority Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said of votes for a two-month patch on the debt limit.Leaders started the week with a plan to send the Senate a single package throwing together a $626 billion Defense budget with a major jobs bill and a long-term debt hike. They scrapped the strategy after realizing the Senate wouldn’t accept the measure — forcing the House to reconvene after Christmas. Instead, the House Democrats’ top brass decided to move the Defense spending bill separately, and it cleared the chamber easily Wednesday afternoon, 395-34. Lawmakers then approved by a voice vote a continuing resolution to keep the Pentagon funded into next week, giving the Senate time to approve the spending bill. But the second half of the Democratic endgame was causing heartburn among fiscal hawks and vulnerable members of the party. The short-term debt patch is meant to give Hoyer room to negotiate a longer-term hike that would also include two top priorities for fiscal hawks: enshrining pay-as-you-go budgeting in law and establishing a commission to tackle entitlement spending.But for now, a patch with no sweeteners attached was proving especially tough medicine for Democrats in marginal districts already under fire from Republicans for the majority’s deficit spending.