Deal watch: Yes or no? Update: Deal; Update: Boehner releases details; Update: Obama video added
posted at 8:28 pm on July 31, 2011 by Allahpundit
In lieu of the Quotes of the Day, a thread to carry us overnight and collect any late-moving debt-ceiling shenanigans. Boehner’s holding a conference call with the GOP caucus at 8:30 p.m. to talk about the deal, but Republicans aren’t the key obstacle right now:
Democrats in the House of Representatives might decide not to support a last-minute deal to raise the debt ceiling when they meet on Monday, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said on Sunday.
“We all may not be able to support it, or none us may be able to support it,” Pelosi told reporters.
A Republican aide tells NRO that if the final agreement on defense cuts looks ugly, Boehner could lose another 40 to 50 Republican votes on top of the 22 who voted against his bill Friday. That’s not bad: All they’d need are 40 to 50 Democrats out of a caucus of 193 to make up the difference, but the left’s lather over this deal is getting foamier by the hour. What’s it going to be like by tomorrow morning, when Pelosi meets with the caucus, when liberals like Emanuel Cleaver are already calling it a, er, “sugar-coated Satan sandwich”?
And yet, and yet, as I write this, Boehner’s still holding out:
Two congressional aides said Boehner is holding out to reduce roughly $350 billion in cuts to defense spending that would be part of an initial $900 billion in deficit cuts tied to a debt ceiling increase of a similar amount. Boehner also is refusing to agree to an even split between cuts to defense and other spending that would be triggered if Congress failed to enact a deficit reduction plan produced by a special congressional committee or doesn’t pass a balanced budget amendment, the aides said. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has left negotiations on defense spending to Boehner, staffers in both parties said. A Democratic congressional aide said McConnell had also signed off on the deal. McConnell spokesman Don Stewart would not confirm the senator had agreed.
If he and McConnell join Reid in signing off on the deal tonight, the full weight of approving the deal will fall on Pelosi and the House Democrats tomorrow. That would leave liberals doubly screwed, not only stuck with a deal they hate but in danger of destroying the left’s relentless messaging that Republicans are the obstructionists here. For six months we’ve been told that those crazy wingnuts are willing to hit the debt ceiling and throw America into economic chaos to make their point; if Pelosi walks away 24 hours before the ceiling deadline after all three other congressional leaders have blessed the deal, that’ll blow up right in her face. I’m amazed, frankly, that Reid publicly approved the deal before she had a chance to talk to House Democrats. All that does is weaken her leverage in holding out and hand the GOP a talking point about how radical House liberals are even by the standards of Harry Reid. But maybe that was Reid’s point: By offering his approval early, he’s maximizing the odds that House Democrats will cave and that this thing really will pass.
But wait, you say. Isn’t Senate action tomorrow subject to unanimous consent to move ahead on a vote without debate? Won’t DeMint or Mike Lee object and slow things down, which will shift some deadline pressure back to the GOP? Actually, probably not: Both of them said today that they’re not going to delay this thing for the sake of delaying it, which keeps the ball squarely in Pelosi’s court. That’s going to be sooooome caucus meeting tomorrow. While we wait for news, here’s Krauthammer on tonight’s very special Special Report insisting that this is a laudable first step by tea partiers towards rolling back ruinous spending. Do any tea partiers actually agree with him? (Maybe a few.) Stand by for updates and click the image to watch.
Update: Just announced: Obama will speak in the White House briefing room at 8:40, which can only mean he’s signed off on the deal. And if that’s true, then Pelosi’s already signed off too. The leadership’s bringing intense pressure on the Democratic caucus to play ball tomorrow by going public tonight.
Update: Reid’s on the Senate floor right now hailing “bipartisan compromise.”
Update: JPod puts it bluntly for House Democrats.
Update: Obama in a nutshell: We have a deal, I would have preferred a “grand bargain,” but it’s a move in the right direction and, hey, at least this thing is over. Video forthcoming.
Update: Here’s the PowerPoint about the agreement that Boehner’s going to roll out at the next Republican caucus meeting. The deal is just what we thought it would be this morning, but note how Boehner’s framing it explicitly as a version of Cut, Cap, and Balance. The key detail on across-the-board cuts, which will go into effect if Congress ends up rejecting the Super Commission’s recommendations:
Total reductions would be equally split between defense and non-defense programs. Across-the-board cuts would also apply to Medicare. Other programs, including Social Security, Medicaid, veterans, and civil & military pay, would be exempt.
So they settled on a 50/50 split after all between defense cuts and other discretionary spending. That was Reid’s price in exchange for dropping tax hikes as an automatic trigger.
Update: John McCormack has excerpts from Boehner’s conference call with House Republicans. “There’s no agreement until we’ve talked to you.”
Update: If you’re worried about the Super Commission coming back to Congress with a package of tax hikes, read James Pethokoukis’s post about baseline budgeting. Because CBO is forced to assume that the Bush tax cuts will expire next year, the Commission can only hit its goal in savings by raising taxes above and beyond the additional $3.5 trillion in revenue that CBO already expects from that expiration. Ain’t going to happen.
Update: Here’s Obama.
Update: The Senate vote shouldn’t be a problem but could be a bit narrower than expected too:
However, less than an hour later during a procedural vote, a group of 15 Senate Democrats crowded around one of their leaders, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), demanding to know why the framework did not include any increased revenue through tax hikes on the wealthy or the closing of corporate loopholes. The group included the Democratic caucus’s most outspoken liberals, such as Sens. Tom Harkin (Iowa), Barbara Mikulski (Md.) and Al Franken (Minn.)
Afterward, Sen. Carl Levin (Mich.), who was part of the huddle, said the group had “mixed” feelings toward the possible deal. “It’s not balanced, it doesn’t have revenues,” he said, disappointed that President Obama’s prior demand for “balance” was not assured. “There are a lot of people who are really withholding judgment.”
I’m curious to see what vulnerable red-state Democrats like Tester, McCaskill, and Nelson do.
Update: Aha, here’s why Boehner finally signed off on the 50/50 split involving defense cuts:
Compromise on defense was to include foreign aid, Homeland Sec., etc. in “security” category of cuts so they didn’t fall so heavily on DOD
Update: Here’s Cleaver, summing up the liberal reaction. Click the image to watch.
Update: Timothy Carney reminds the left that when you elect a guy whose main goal is his own reelection, don’t be surprised when the deals he strikes reflect that priority.
In this light, consider Obama’s willingness in April to compromise on taxes and most spending, but to stand firm on Planned Parenthood subsidies. It looks like liberal principles took a back seat to 2012 fundraising.
And this debt deal is similarly Machiavellian: Substance was subjugated to political framing. Republicans had their demands: no tax increases, yes spending cuts. Democrats’ demands had a different tone.
First, Democrats wanted to ensure this was the last debt-limit increase before the 2012 elections. Raising the debt limit, as Sen. Obama said in 2006, is “a sign of leadership failure” and politically unpopular.
Second, they wanted to ensure that the right issues would be debated in the election year. A high-stakes debate over a balanced budget amendment — as required by the bill the House passed on Friday — would make it clear that Democrats, unlike most Americans, do not want a balanced budget…
Democrats’ willingness to compromise doesn’t reflect superior maturity to the more rigid Republicans. Quite the contrary: It reflects caring less about policy than about politics.