The vote’s set for 5:45 p.m. ET or shortly thereafter but the outcome’s a fait accompli. I agree with Ed that tacking on a balanced-budget amendment is mainly a face-saving gesture, but so what? The Senate was going to kill Boehner’s bill last night anyway. Adding a BBA and pushing it through preserves the “we passed two bills and you passed zip” talking point in case we hit the ceiling next week and a messaging war erupts. It’s basically Cut Cap and Balance lite (very lite!), and like Tina says, it may put Democrats on the defensive by forcing them to explain their entrenched resistance to the amendment. Although, if we really wanted to do that, the best way would be to borrow Jeff Flake’s fiendishly clever ploy to attach a BBA to Reid’s bill and have the House pass that. Let Obama explain why Reid’s plan in isolation is wonderful but Reid’s plan plus a balanced budget must be defeated at all costs.
For what it’s worth, I think Guy Benson’s spot on as to how this all shakes out:
This is my best analysis, informed by a series of discussions with Capitol Hill staffers: Mitch McConnell will use any leverage he and Speaker Boehner have amassed (I’d argue that leverage has been slightly diminished, since Boehner had to resort to a gimmick to pass his own plan through the House) to strengthen and improve Reid’s bill as much as possible. In this final negotiation, Democrats’ top concern will be protecting the president by ensuring the final deal clears the debt ceiling decks until after 2012. For their part, Republicans will fight for the deepest cuts possible, and perhaps a guaranteed vote on a BBA in the Senate. The resulting deal will likely be unacceptable to some House Republicans — especially those who are, or were, “no’s” on the Boehner deal. It will still pass the House, however, because Pelosi will be instructed to release her caucus to give Boehner the votes he needs to cobble together a majority.
They’re almost certainly going to resolve the short-term/long-term sticking point with some version of McConnell’s old proposal to let Obama raise the ceiling unilaterally unless two-thirds of both chambers vote him down. (“Do House Republicans really want to do this again in six months?” wondered NBC this morning.) They also need to hash out some sort of trigger mechanism for the new debt commission so that the two sides stay at the table and produce an actual proposal. In exchange for that, presumably, Republicans will demand and receive more front-loaded cuts and some sort of protection for defense spending. Obama said just within the past hour that he’d accept a two-day raising of the debt ceiling to keep negotiations going, so if they can’t get all this hammered out this weekend, look for that bill to pass on Monday. The two sides are only $8 billion apart once you ignore Reid’s phony war “savings,” so there’s your starting point.
Here’s the CSPAN live feed in case you’re not near a TV. We may or may not have a separate open thread for tonight’s Senate votes depending upon how soon they happen. If not, stick with this post for updates. To whet your appetite, TPM reports that Senate Democrats are eyeing no fewer than 11 Republicans as possible yes votes on Reid’s bill:
Right now, Democrats are looking to about 11 gettable GOP votes: Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME), Bob Corker (R-TN), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Scott Brown (R-MA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Mike Crapo (R-ID), and Tom Coburn (R-OK). The last three were the Republican members of the Gang of Six deficit reduction group.
I simply can’t believe they’d help him pass it after House Democrats made Boehner choke, but there’s your drama for the evening: Will the Senate GOP cave before a compromise is even reached? If it happens, it’ll be RINOgeddon.
Update: Now they tell us.
Moody’s Investors Service said today it expects the U.S. will get to keep its Aaa credit rating, “albeit with a shift to a negative outlook,” provided Congress and the White House can work out a deal to avoid missing payments to U.S. bondholders.
Moody’s launched a review of the U.S. credit rating on July 13, as the fight over how to raise the current $14.3 trillion federal borrowing limit was starting to heat up. Moody’s review will finish when the debt limit is extended “for more than a short period of time,” the company said. That line gives some ammunition to Democrats and President Barack Obama, who have said any debt deal should lift the borrowing cap through the end of 2012.
Advantage: Obama and Reid. The silver lining for Republicans is that Moody’s also said it only cares about payments related to the debt service when assessing “default.” Since Treasury will have plenty of revenue to cover that, default isn’t happening.
Update: Boehner’s unloading on President Present in his floor speech. “Put something on the table! Tell us where you are!”
Update: They’ve got until Monday to hammer out a deal, right? Wrong. According to The Hill, for procedural reasons the real deadline is … tomorrow.
Update: Here’s Boehner’s floor speech. Click the image to watch.
Update: The deed is done, 218-210. Time to switch over to CSPAN 2 and watch Reid and the Democrats go to work. I’ll post the House roll as soon as it’s available.
Incidentally, this Hill article makes it sound like the Senate might not vote on Reid’s bill. The plan, apparently, is to hold a vote right away to table Boehner’s bill and then have Reid and McConnell huddle to produce a compromise bill. That bill will be presented for a cloture vote late tonight — if they can work out the details — so that things can move forward per proper procedure before we hit the ceiling.
Update: Via Fox reporter Chad Pergram, the 22 Republicans who voted no: Amash, Bachmann, Broun, Chaffetz, Cravaack, DesJarlais, Duncan (SC), Gowdy, Graves (GA), Huelskamp, Johnson (Ill), Jordan, King (IA), Latham, Mack (FL), McClintock, Mulvaney, Paul, Scott (SC), Southerland, Walsh, Wilson (SC).
Update: From Chuck Todd, nothing surprising here: “Reid is floating more cuts up front, a promise on a VOTE for a BBA and some stronger trigger to get Senate GOP xovers.”