Boehner Blinks, Senate 'Close' to Deal
The House convenes Wednesday morning, but no further action on government funding or the debt ceiling is expected. House GOP Leaders had tried to pass a new proposal to end the partial government shutdown and lift the debt ceiling on Tuesday, but had to pull the measure from the floor in the face of conservative opposition. Any deal to reopen government and raise the debt ceiling will now come from the Senate.
Talks on a deal in the Senate were largely suspended on Tuesday, as the House Leadership worked to craft a new proposal. The House effort had been urged by Senate Republicans, who wanted to strengthen their hand in talks with Reid. The collapse in the House means Obama and Reid will largely get the "clean" spending and debt increase bill they have wanted. The only questions remaining are timing and procedural hurdles.
The Senate convenes Wednesday afternoon and will likely announce a final deal later in the day. It is expected to fund government through January 15 and lift the debt ceiling until early February. It may contain stricter guidelines to enforce income eligibility for ObamaCare subsidies, a provision that is already law but ignored by the Obama Administration. It will also probably create a commission to make longer-term recommendations on the budget, with a report due sometime in mid-December.
The Senate, by design, was not constructed for quick passage of legislation. Passing a deal before the Thursday debt ceiling deadline would require unanimous consent of all 100 Senators. If any one Senator objects, like a Sen. Cruz or Sen. Lee, a vote on the deal could be delayed for a few days.
If there is an objection, a deal would have to survive two cloture votes. The outcome of these votes isn't in doubt, but the process could take several days. Reid could skip one of these cloture votes, if the House makes a formal request for the Senate to take up the legislation. Sources on Capitol Hill tell Breitbart News that Speaker Boehner is seriously considering such a move, to speed up adoption of a deal.
Attention will then turn to the House, which will come under intense pressure to act quickly. The vote will provide a critical test of John Boehner's Speakership. During his tenure as Speaker, Boehner has operated by the "Hastert Rule," meaning that any measure brought to the floor had to have majority support of the GOP caucus. Many Republicans are expected to vote against a deal that many conservatives see as a capitulation. If enough Republicans oppose a deal, Boehner will have to rely on Democrats to succeed on a vote. Such a move could jeopardize his hold on power.
Some deal is likely to get done, probably sometime over the weekend. It is more of a reprieve than a final solution, however. One senior Senate staffer described it as a "skirmish" to Breitbart News. The fight over spending and debt will pick up again in a couple months. The issue won't be definitively resolved, however, until after next year's election.
UPDATE: According to Hill sources, the House now plans to vote first on any Senate deal. If the House passes the measure first, it removes some procedural hurdles in the Senate, allowing Reid to act on the deal quickly.