While Barack Obama went to the press for the third time in 17 days, John Boehner and Eric Cantor called his bluff in the House. The Republican leadership announced that the House would vote on a plan to raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion and matching cuts:
House Republicans said Friday that they planned to vote next week on a proposal to raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion, with matching cuts and guidelines to control future government spending.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) said at a news conference Friday that the House next week would vote on a “cut, cap and balance” approach. The House plans to separately vote on a measure that would amend the U.S. Constitution to require the federal government to balance its budget.
House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) said Friday that the White House has been “unwilling to put a real plan on the table,” but said next week’s vote would not “preclude” the chance of reaching a deal with Democrats.
The only thing wrong with this announcement was the timing. The GOP probably should have waited for Obama’s press conference to end before unveiling this effort. That would have trumped Obama’s message and might have improved the chances of carrying the news cycle.
However, Obama’s wan performance at the podium might not prove much of a challenge. Obama’s third press conference produced exactly what his first two press conferences already delivered: no plan, no specifics. In fact, Obama explicitly stated, “I’m not going to get into specifics.” House Republicans have offered — and passed — a very specific plan to reduce spending and the need for future borrowing. Obama’s own debt commission delivered a very specific plan, which Obama has entirely ignored for five months. James Pethokoukis was prompted to tweet, “Leading from behind,” and at this late date, it’s hard to grasp what the White House wanted from a rehash of the prior two press conferences.
Boehner and Cantor could still be bluffing themselves. They took quite a while to develop this proposal, and some wondered whether Boehner could get the votes for a debt-ceiling increase in order to put pressure on the Senate and White House. One has to assume that they have whipped the caucus to make sure it can pass without Democratic support, even though Tea Party Caucus leader Michele Bachmann and others have publicly declared opposition to any debt ceiling hike. I assume we will see a round of strategic voting and a thin margin of victory in the roll-call vote.
If Republicans pass this in the House, they will have delivered a plan that puts the next debate over the debt ceiling into 2013, and made the 2012 elections hinge on this debate. The bill will force the Democrats in the Senate and Obama to either accept that outcome or kill the bill — and that puts the onus for default squarely on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the President of Ambiguities.