Today Speaker John Boehner will bring his debt ceiling legislation up for a vote in another crucial battle in the debt limit debate. The consequences of the vote may ultimately determine whether Boehner’s “two-tiered” process ends up becoming law or whether Senate Majority Leader Reid’s one-step process wins out. The two packages are very similar in the kind of spending cuts they require. Reid’s package contains more cuts and is able to demonstrate savings sooner than Boehner’s. The major difference is that Boehner’s bill would require another vote to raise the debt ceiling in early 2012, whereas Reid’s plan would increase the debt ceiling into 2013. Democrats strongly object to putting the Congress, country, and economy through this process again at the start of an election year, when it may only be more difficult to make a deal.
The vote on Boehner’s bill is expected to occur this afternoon or this evening. GOP leaders are reportedly “whipping” their members furiously in an attempt to get the votes needed to pass the bill. Republicans have 240 members in the House compared to just 193 for Democrats. Since there are two vacant posts in the House only 217 votes will be needed for passage. All but maybe three or four Democrats are expected to vote against Boehner’s bill in a sign of support for Reid’s bill, meaning Republicans can only lose about 23 of their members in order to pass the bill.
Update: With the absence of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) Boehner will now need only 216 votes to gain a majority for passage of the bill
The problem for Republicans is a large number of their more conservative, Tea Party members. Many members, like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn), have vowed not to vote for any debt limit increase unless it is accompanied by a balanced budget amendment. A number of other members have said that Boehner’s cuts are too small. Finally, some members are simply opposed to any debt limit increase.
Despite these obstacles, the bill is likely to pass unless the Republican leadership has no control over their own caucus. Even if the Republican leadership succeeds the Boehner bill will certainly die in the Senate, where 53 of the 100 Senators signed a letter saying they would vote against the legislation.
Senator Reid faces the same problem, in that he can likely pass his bill through the Senate but not through the House without some Republican support. Speaker Boehner may not even allow a vote on the Reid bill in the House on the off chance that it would actually pass with the help of more moderate Republicans. In some ways it may be a bad sign if Boehner’s bill does not pass, as it will show that he cannot round up the votes for any debt limit increase whether it be his own bill or Senator Reid’s.
In the end what this means is that Washington will be back to the beginning in the debt ceiling debate with only five days to go until default. As each day passes the world financial markets continue to react negatively to the stalemate, and Americans will continue to feel the pain in the 401(k) accounts.