Has an end game begun to take shape on the debt-ceiling debate? According to Politico, Democrats are shaping a new plan to reach a compromise with Republicans in both chambers, taking elements from two Republican plans to create a Boehner-McConnell approach:
Democrats are aiming for a debt-limit compromise similar to the House Republican plan, with at least one major difference: The second vote on raising the debt ceiling would not depend on Congress passing a broader deficit-reduction package.
The shape of this potential compromise meshes major elements of the proposals offered in recent weeks by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), according to Democratic officials familiar with the negotiations.
Under the possible compromise, Congress could still get a second crack at voting on the debt limit within months. But rather than linking the vote to Congress approving the recommendations of a new 12-member committee — as it would be in Boehner’s bill — Democrats prefer McConnell’s proposal that allows President Barack Obama to lift the debt ceiling unless two-thirds of both chambers override his veto of a disapproval resolution, the officials said.
To force action on a deficit reduction package, the White House would agree to strengthen the mechanism that compels Congress to pass the special committee’s recommendations, the officials said. The officials would not detail proposals for a so-called trigger that acts as an incentive for both parties to bargain in good faith and reach agreement.
Well, if Democrats do produce this plan for an actual vote, it would have the honor of being their first. Would it work, though? It combines the elements of both bills to which some Republicans object most, which is giving control of a second debt increase to Obama while making it easier to avoid further cuts. Boehner has had enough problems keeping his caucus in line without appearing to make further concessions.
However, the key to this would be getting Democratic support in both chambers. Boehner wouldn’t necessarily need to get everyone in the GOP caucus on board; in fact, he could stop whipping the vote altogether and release some members to vote against it. McConnell would have to deliver enough Republicans to keep a filibuster from succeeding in the Senate, but that doesn’t seem like a difficult task at this point.
As distasteful as this might be, it still isn’t a bad deal for Republicans. They get some cuts and no tax increases, a key victory in this debate. They also force a second debate before the election, with less risk for the GOP of another round of brinksmanship. And in the end, a unilateral decision by Obama to commit the second debt-ceiling increase will hang it completely on him, especially if Republicans in the House vote against it when it occurs. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Boehner keep 125-150 Republicans with him on this proposal.
Update: Cantor seems less anxious to get to a vote on Boehner 1.1:
On Friday morning, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was non-committal about bringing Speaker John Boehner’s debt ceiling package back to the floor — less than 12 hours after GOP leadership pulled the bill fearing it would fail without enough Republican votes.
The Virginia Republican told POLITICO in a brief interview as he walked into the Capitol Friday morning that “we’ll see” if the twice-delayed debt ceiling package would see a vote.
That could just mean that Boehner can’t get the votes, but it could also mean that they see another option, too.
Update II: Looks like Jeff Flake’s late commitment for support may have given Boehner the 216 votes he needs today. But that was contingent on passing the BBA for a 2nd tranche on the debt ceiling, making Boehner’s bill an even more DOA effort when it gets to the Senate.