Open thread: Senate to vote on debt bill at 1 p.m., or maybe not

posted at 12:09 pm on July 31, 2011 by Allahpundit
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They’re supposed to vote at 1 p.m., but according to Plouffe and another “Democrat familiar with the situation,” there’s still no bill. What’s the hold up? In all likelihood, they’re haggling over the “triggers” that’ll happen if the new Super Commission can’t agree on, or Congress won’t accept, new deficit reduction proposals later this year. Jen Rubin’s hearing the following from a Republican source on the Hill:

The second tranche works like this: If a new congressional commission introduces a plan totaling at least $1.5 trillion in cuts by Thanksgiving and it’s passed by Christmas there are no across-the-board cuts. Or, if a balanced budget amendment is passed and sent to the states, then across-the-board cuts are avoided. However, if there is no commission package passed AND the BBA is not passed and sent to the states, then across-the-board cuts of $1.2 trillion including Medicare and defense (the details of which aren’t final) go into effect. If the across-the board-cuts go into effect, the debt ceiling is only raised $1.2 trillion (likely insufficient to keep the government operating for long), meaning “we could do this all over again, depending on economic growth.” In other words, if we went to sequestration the total debt ceiling increase would be $2.1 trillion in two doses.

So there’s the BBA concession: Democrats can avoid new cuts in the second stage entirely if they pass the amendment. As for the automatic Medicare/Pentagon reductions, that’s obviously designed to make both sides in Congress think twice before rejecting the Super Commission’s recommendations. The precise formula for that is still being negotiated too. According to Jake Tapper, the White House wants fully 50 percent of the automatic cuts to affect the Pentagon and 50 percent to be spread across various other discretionary programs. GOP hawks won’t go for that, especially since the only alternative might be approving a Commission package that includes new revenues.

As I write this, the Senate has just begun its session and Reid is insisting that they’re “cautiously optimistic” about a deal but not there yet. Here’s your thread for tracking today’s drama. Exit question: How many Republican and Democratic votes will this bargain get in the House? Progressives are reportedly already murmuring about balking because of the lack of revenue in the deal, which means Boehner will need a majority of his previous Republican majority on yesterday’s vote to get this through. (Here’s one vote forecast.) I wonder if they’ll do it on the first try or, a la TARP, if it’ll take a market panic and subsequent re-vote to get it done. Stand by for updates.

Update: The post-deal spin starts before the deal is even struck:

“I don’t think we’ve been hurt at all,” McConnell said on CBS’ ‘Face the Nation’.

“The American people wanted us to do something about out-of-control spending and … the debt ceiling is going to produce what many people would believe is a complete change in the trajectory of the federal government beginning to get spending under control,” said McConnell, who is likely to be largely responsible for any package that wins muster with Congress.

Update: John Bolton sounds the alarm for hawks:

Every indication is that the debt-ceiling negotiations are leaving the defense budget in grave jeopardy. By exposing critical defense programs to disproportionate cuts as part of the “trigger mechanism,” there is a clear risk that key defense programs will be hollowed out.

While the trigger mechanism comes into play only if the Congressional negotiators fail to reach agreement on the second phase of spending cuts, it verges on catastrophe to take such a national security risk.

Defense has already taken hugely disproportionate cuts under President Obama, and there is simply no basis for expanding those cuts further. Republican negotiators must hold the line, since the Obama Administration plainly will no
Open thread: Senate to vote on debt bill at 1 p.m., or maybe not Open thread: Senate to vote on debt bill at 1 p.m., or maybe not Reviewed by Sopheap Chhin on 10:25:00 AM Rating: 5

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