ABC reports this morning that Congressional leaders have already begun briefing their caucuses on the eleventh-hour deal that emerged from the White House last night. Jonathan Karl notes that the deal is contingent on getting enough support from each House caucus to form a majority, and in the Senate to avoid a filibuster. We’ll come back to that in a moment, but Karl also updates the story on the deal. The topline numbers are apparently $2.4 trillion in matching spending cuts and debt-ceiling raises instead of $2.8 trillion, but now both are split into two parts:
The current framework would give the president the authority to raise the debt ceiling in two parts: roughly half of it now and the balance at the end of the year.
Each increase would be subject to a Congressional resolution of disapproval.
If Congress voted to disapprove that increase, however, the President could veto their disapproval.
The AP reported earlier on the $2.4 trillion number, too, although they say the cuts will be “slightly more” than the debt-ceiling boost. That’s still enough to get Barack Obama past the 2012 election, but not by much. It guarantees that the debt ceiling will be a 2012 election issue, although by now that was a given anyway.
However, the added McConnell wrinkle is interesting — and potentially a big win for Republicans. Essentially, Republicans get to claim credit for the cuts while laying blame for the debt increases on Obama. If they “disapprove,” Obama will veto the disapproval and end up owning all of the political baggage for the debt-ceiling increases. That’s a steep price to pay for Obama just to protect himself through the next election, although he could turn it on its ear and refuse to veto the second increase disapproval and force this fight all over again. That would, however, put the country back in “crisis” mode, and that would still be all on Obama.
This brings the deal closer to what I predicted yesterday; in fact, it almost matches it exactly. But can the leaders get the votes for it? If Obama endorses this deal, most Democrats will have no choice but to back it; after all, they have been doing the most Chicken Little screeching about the consequences of legislative failure. Boehner and McConnell will lose a significant number of Republicans, but both will probably hold a majority of their caucuses. I’d expect an agreement along these lines to pass quickly through Congress, maybe fast enough to avoid having to pass a $50 billion, two-week extension to gain time for the debate.
Update: Added “ceiling” to headline for more clarity.
Update II: McConnell tells CNN that they are “very close” to a deal. I’d interpret that to mean that they’re shopping the deal to the caucuses to make sure they can get the votes.