Friday, July 29, 2011

House Passes Doomed Debt Legislation; Boehner Fights for Political Life

Updated at 8:45 p.m. EDT

As promised, the Senate rejected a GOP House debt-reduction bill tonight, just hours after Speaker John Boehner pulled off a legislative victory he needed to re-ignite his leadership over his party and its stubborn Tea Party wing.

The Senate voted 59-41 to defeat Boehner's hard-fought legislation, which twice was delayed this week from being brought to the floor because the Speaker had failed to garner enough support to ensure it would pass.

The GOP-led House had passed in the House early this evening. There were 22 Republicans who opposed Boehner and voted down his measure (Politico takes a glance at who they were). A couple of hours later the Democratic-led Senate killed it.

"The bill passed today in the House with exclusively Republican votes would have us face another debt ceiling crisis in just a few months by demanding the Constitution be amended or America defaults. This bill has been declared dead on arrival in the Senate," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement issue just before the Senate vote.

"Now that yet another political exercise is behind us, with time dwindling, leaders need to start working together immediately to reach a compromise that avoids default and lays the basis for balanced deficit reduction," Carney added.

Boehner's bill would have required another debt debate at the end of this year and passage of a balanced-budget amendment to the constitution, or else the U.S. would default on its bills. A constitutional amendment requires the support of two-thirds of Congress and three-fourths of the states.

Experts say it could take up to a decade to complete the process of adding a constitutional amendment.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans this weekend to bring his own bill to the Senate for a vote. If it passes, the House GOP may return the favor and reject his debt reduction measure.

And then comes the real negotiating process, where both sides may have only a matter of hours to find a compromise on how to draw the country's $14.3 trillion debt, or at agree to at least a framework that they can use to extend the talks beyond the deadline Tuesday.

"It's time to be adults," Reid said after the Senate tabled the Boehner measure.

But with three days to go before the U.S. defaults on paying some of its bills, some lawmakers think Washington is cutting it too close.

"It is very dicey at this point. I never thought we would be three days out from driving over the cliff," Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.). told MSNBC.

end update

The House GOP resuscitated the political life of Speaker John Boehner, passing his dead-on-arrival partisan debt ceiling measure as the Tuesday default deadline moved dangerously closer amid fears stonewalling in Washington already cost the U.S. a nearly century-old blue ribbon AAA credit rating.

The House GOP voted 218 to 210 in favor of Boehner's two-tiered measure that would guarantee the exact same debt fight at the end of the year, and calls for a balanced budget amendment in the constitution -- two measures that the White House and democrats say are deal-breakers.

Boehner tweaked the measure and scrambled for an additional 24 hours, shaking down House GOP members trying to reach the 216 votes threshold needed to pass the measure. The delay called into question Boehner's leadership and further elevated the prominence of the Tea Party Republicans in the GOP.

In his final remarks before the vote, Boehner took aim at President Obama for failing to put on paper his own debt celing plan, but the Speaker's words easily could have been meant for his detractors in the Republican ranks.

"I stuck my neck out a mile to try to get an agreement with the President of the United States. I stuck my neck out a mile, and I put revenues on the table in order to try to come an agreement to avert us being where we are now, but a lot people in this town can never say yes," Boehner said on the House floor.

Boehner's bill will fail to get through the Senate, but even if it did pass, Preesident Obama would veto it.

For the sixth straight day, the financial markets continued their decline amid the debt standoff, increasingly blamed on the unwavering Tea Party faction which threw down the gauntlet and opposed wiping out corporate tax loopholes or restoring the tax levels paid by the richest Americans during the 1990s.

Some Tea Party leaders, like Rep. Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin, oppose raising the debt ceiling at all.

Obama, meanwhile, urged Americans to weigh-in on the debt debate by contacting their elected officials. His campaign put out on Twitter the contacts for House lawmakers.

"If you want to see a bipartisan compromise -– a bill that can pass both houses of Congress and that I can sign -- let your members of Congress know. Make a phone call. Send an email.  Tweet. Keep the pressure on Washington, and we can get past this," Obama said. "We are now running out of time."

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