Will There Be a Debt Ceiling Deal?
With thousands of civilian defense workers on furlough and warnings that readiness is eroding, time is running out to reach to a deal on the debt limit. By National Journal Staff
Time is running out to come to a deal on the debt limit. The government has already been shut down for 15 days. And the finish-line just keeps moving further and further away.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are trying to hash out a deal. That deal would fund the government until January 15 and raise the debt limit until February 7. It would also create a bicameral conference to come to a long-term tax and spending plan, with a report due by December 13. The proposal would only touch Obamacare at the margins: tightening income-verification standards for people who receive subsidies and a possible one-year delay of the reinsurance tax, which is paid by employers. But by Tuesday afternoon, it wasn't clear how much of that plan is still standing, with negotiations delayed.
Why the delay? Look to the House, which looks like it will stand in the way of the Senate deal. House conservatives are pushing Speaker Boehnerto reject the compromise, and they expect Boehner to instead introduce a new deal of his own on Tuesday. The details of that deal are have leaked out, but nothing is official. But, lest you start getting hopeful for a compromise, the White House and congressional Democrats have already rejected the still-changing plan.
House Democratic leadership will meet with the president at the White House at 3:15 p.m.
There's a lot going on, and there's even more at stake. Stick here for updates from National Journal 's team of Congressional reporters throughout the day.
UPDATE (7:00 p.m.): Confirmed, The House Vote Isn't Happening
There will be no vote on a House bill to end the shutdown Tuesday. Boehner does not have the votes to pass his proposal. Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) tells the Washington Post "We are done for the night."
UPDATE (6:06 p.m.): The House Vote (Probably) Isn't Happening
And just like that, a full day comes to this: National Review 's Robert Costa reports that there will be no vote tonight on the House GOP plan to raise the debt-limit and reopen the government. Meanwhile, a House leadership aide says "no decision has been made at this time. The elected leadership will meet soon."It's not at all clear where House Republican leadership goes from here. If they go further to the right to appease their caucus, a plan would have even less of a chance of being treated seriously by the Senate. And if they don't go more to the right, they risk losing a majority of House Republican votes.
Time is now seriously short, and there aren't any hours left to negotiate, vote, and prevent a debt-ceiling breach. (By Matt Berman)
UPDATE (6:05 p.m.): What Happened in the Rules Committee
The House Rules Committee was supposed to have a hearing earlier this evening on the House GOP plan. It didn't happen, and it didn't look good for the bill's chances in the House.
But Sessions tried to depict developments in a different light, saying the delay will allow members to "touch base with people back home and major constituencies."
He noted that the bill had only been publicly posted shortly before the meeting, and until that text came out, "no one really knew what we were doing."
"So now that we've posted the text, our members then take that off the web site and are calling people back home, making sure that they're not second-guessed," and making sure "there is understanding back home," he said.
"It is my hope that we will give members time to appropriately understand what's in the bill, meet with people, and have those discussions" said Sessions, a Republican from Texas and a close ally of Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "Aand I have put the entire committee on notice that I would intend to give them an hour's notice.
"And so, while I feel a big rush – it's more important to do it right than it is to do it. So that's why I'm deferring the meeting for a few hours," said Sessions.
Responded an aide to a top Democrat on the committee of the sudden Republican move, "Definitely panic on their side. House Rs jumping ship over Heritage keying vote." (By Billy House)
UPDATE (5:43 p.m.): Is the House Bill Dead?
The House Rules Committee is no longer having a hearing tonight about the House GOP deal. House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Tex., said "we're not going to have a rules committee meeting at this time."
It's now unclear whether or not the bill will be able to make it to the floor for a vote tonight. Politico 's Jake Sherman reports that House Republicans may not have had the votes to pass the bill. (By Billy House and Matt Berman)
UPDATE (5:22 p.m.): Heritage Action: Vote No on the House GOP Deal
The powerful Heritage Action group has decided to key vote the new House GOP plan. They're against it:
"Unfortunately, the proposed deal will do nothing to stop Obamacare's massive new entitlements from taking root — radically changing the nature of American health care."
Heritage Action previously suggested that they wouldn't key vote a straight debt-limit raise. The action of "key voting" the bill means that Heritage will make a note of the vote on their legislative scorecards, which could give cover to vote against the bill for some conservatives already on the edge. The action could also make it more difficult for some House conservatives to back leadership.
Speaker Boehner now has a major task ahead of him: getting enough Republican votes to get his deal through the House tonight, even with major conservative pressure weighing against him. Nancy Pelosi has already said that she expects no Democrats to vote for this bill. (By Matt Berman)
UPDATE (5:02 p.m.): Credit Rating Watch
The credit rating agency Fitch has put the United States' AAA credit rating under review for a downgrade. In a statement, the agency said that "although Fitch continues to believe that the debt ceiling will be raised soon, the political brinkmanship and reduced financing flexibility could increase the risk of a U.S. default." (By Matt Berman)
UPDATE (4:56 p.m.): Here's the House Bill
Fresh from the Rules Committee . A vote is expected before 8 p.m. (By Matt Berman)
UPDATE (4:40 p.m.): House GOP Plan Goes to the Rules Committee
The House Rules Committee has set its hearing on the new House plan for 5:40 p.m. The bill is being posted now. Once that hearing is over, it's time for a vote. (By Billy House)
UPDATE (4:26 p.m.): House Dems Speak at the White House
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tried to give a voice of optimism at the White House, saying that the consequences of a debt-ceiling breach would be so "catastrophic" that she hopes some Republicans will "see the light."
Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer called the meeting with the president "very positive." (By Matt Berman)
UPDATE (4:10 p.m.): FreedomWorks Trashes House GOP Plan
The influential (but cash-strapped ) conservative group FreedomWorks has just sent out a release stating opposition to the new House GOP plan."It's a non-starter for grassroots America," writes FreedomWorks' Dean Clancy.
As has been the case for a while now, FreedomWorks wants House Republicans to hold out for a delay of the individual mandate, at the minimum. (By Matt Berman)
UPDATE (3:50 p.m.): The New House GOP Plan
The blossoming plan from the House GOP is a deal that would fund the government until December 15 and raise the debt-limit until February 7, according to National Review 's Robert Costa . That plan would also include the Vitter language that strips health-care subsidies from members of Congress, their staffs and cabinet officials.
House Republicans expect enough Republican members to sign onto the bill to assure its passage in the House as soon as tonight.
And from there? Wait and see what the Senate does. Up to this point, Senate Democrats have not been very supportive of the Vitter plan. As Alex Seitz-Wald's writes, the Vitter plan could pose real problems for Congress. And, the President for the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities writes , the proposal would make members of Congress and their staffs "the only workers in the United States whose employer is barred by law from helping to cover their premiums." (By Matt Berman)
UPDATE (3:33 p.m.): Will House Vote on Bill Tonight?
NBC's Kelly O'Donnell reports that the House is preparing to go to the Rules Committee to prepare for voting Tuesday night a bill that would raise the debt ceiling and reopen the government. But the votes the legislation needs for passage aren't there yet , so Speaker John Boehner is likely spending the few hours before a potential vote whipping support from some Republicans, unhappy with an earlier removal of language calling for a delay on the medical device tax, who are on the fence. (By Marina Koren)
UPDATE (3:14 p.m.): A Senate Deal Lives?
From Bloomberg 's Nicholas Johnston:
Stocks on their way back up! BN *REID AIDE SAYS SENATE DEAL TO RE-EMERGE AFTER HOUSE PLAN FAILS— Nicholas Johnston (@FirstWordNick) October 15, 2013
For now, at least, deals seem up-in-the-air in both chambers.
UPDATE (3:07 p.m.): What Is Happening in the Senate?
Yesterday's Senate deal optimism is quickly turning. This isn't something you ever want to see with under two days to go until the U.S. hits the debt-limit:
Sen Collins: NO Senate deal right now. Yest Reid/McConnell were "extremely close. But now it appears they don't have an agreement"— Suzy Khimm (@SuzyKhimm) October 15, 2013
UPDATE (2:53 p.m.): Wither the Deals?
Bloomberg is reporting that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., believes that the Senate deal has "fallen apart." Meanwhile, on the other side of the hill, National Review is reporting that the House's plan is now completely up-in-the-air. National Review 's Robert Costa believes all focus now is on the Vitter language and trying to find enough House votes for passage, with the medical device tax delay no longer part of the plan.
The next hour, the last of the day while markets remain open, could prove to be quite hectic. (By Matt Berman)
UPDATE (2:50 p.m.): There Goes the Dow
With about an hour to go before markets close, things on the Dow aren't looking too swell. Here's the Dow as of 2:45:
You can see the latest here . For some more context, here's the Dow over the last 6 months. We're not yet in any sort of real panic:
UPDATE (2:05 p.m.): House Plan Throws a Wrench Into Senate Negotiations
The House Republican leadership's latest plan to reopen the government and prevent a debt default has stalled the Senate talks, say lawmakers, and prompted Democratic leaders to shred the proposal on the floor. They criticized on Tuesday a part of Speaker John Boehner's proposal that would limit the extraordinary means currently available to the Treasury.
Read more here from Michael Catalini and Elahe Izadi.
UPDATE (1:04 p.m. ): House Conservatives Iffy on New Plan
"I'm a 'no,'" Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas told National Journal . More here from Tim Alberta and Billy House.
UPDATE (1 p.m.): White House Optimistic About Senate Plans, But Time Is Running Out
The White House voiced cautious optimism about the ongoing Hill talks Tuesday. The president is pleased with the progress in the Senate, said press secretary Jay Carney, and the potential is there for a solution. Still, "we're far from a deal in this point," he said.
Carney refused to get into specific parts of the negotiations. He also declined to express confidence that the votes are there for a compromise measure. "We are very close to a very important deadline and time is of the essence," he said. (By George Condon)
UPDATE (12:41 p.m.): House Republicans Fire Back at Reid
House Republican leadership is sniping back at Reid's characterization of the debt ceiling and CR proposal coming from their ranks. Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement, "Is Senator Reid so blinded by partisanship that he is willing to risk default on our debt to protect a 'pacemaker tax' that 34 Senate Democrats are on the record opposing, and he himself called 'stupid'?" (By Elahe Izad)
UPDATE: (12:23 p.m.): So, What Is the House GOP Proposal, Exactly?
Right now, it's just a framework. After the plan leaked out this morning (details below), House Republican leadership issued a noncommittal statement on what exactly they are thinking. Other members back this up. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Georgia, explicitly called the plan a framework, and Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., told National Review that he expects the bill to be "tweaked" before it makes it to the Rules Committee. One thing already sounds like it may be changing: According to Robert Costa, the plan now would include the full language of the Vitter amendment, meaning that health care subsidies would be stripped for members of Congress, cabinet appointees AND their staffs. That language alone would likely doom the plan in the Senate.
And, seemingly out-of-the-blue, CQ-Roll Call is reporting that some House Republicans are pushing to add a measure to the plan that would allow employers to opt-out of providing contraception for their employees.
The bottom-line is that we don't yet really know what the full plan will be, as it appears that House leadership hasn't quite decided yet. But that decision will have to come soon. (By Matt Berman)
UPDATE (11:50 a.m.): Nancy Pelosi: I Don't Know Who Boehner Is Talking To
At a press conference, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi shot back against Boehner's earlier claim that he was speaking with House members on both sides of the aisle, saying that she doesn't know what Democrats Boehner is talking to.
Pelosi did say that she thought "we'd have everyone" from her caucus to vote for the Reid/McConnell plan.
"The whole world is watching what happens here," Pelosi said, calling the House GOP plan "reckless, irresponsible, radical." The minority leader, speaking of Boehner's press statement, said that "she saw a speaker that didn't have the votes" for his plan.
Speaking with Pelosi, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer said that House Republicans have managed to "snatch confrontation from the jaws of reasonable agreement." (By Matt Berman and Elahe Izadi)
UPDATE (11:35 a.m.): Harry Reid: House GOP Plan a "Blatant Attack on Bipartisanship"
On the Senate floor before noon, Majority Leader Harry Reid bashed the House GOP plan. "It's a plan to advance an extreme piece of legislation," Reid said, "and it's nothing more than a blatant attack on bipartisanship." The majority leader said that the plan can't and won't pass the Senate.
Reid said that House Republicans would never do this to President Romney, President Bush, or President Reagan. "The tea party driven part of the Republican party does not follow logic."
Reprising a theme, the majority leader said that he is "very disappointed" with Speaker Boehner. (By Matt Berman)
UPDATE (11:12 a.m.): Speaker Boehner: "There Have Been No Decisions About What Exactly We Will Do"
At a Tuesday press statement after a long meeting, House GOP leadership said that they would continue to work on a deal, but have no firm decisions about what they will do next.
"We are working with our members on a way forward," Speaker Boehner said, calling the idea of default "wrong." He wouldn't commit to much more though, just saying that leadership is working with members in both parties to "find a way to move forward today."
This of course doesn't mean that the House plan that was leaked this morning is already done, but with White House support nonexistant and Senate support unknown, leadership isn't ready to give a plan a public roll-out. (By Matt Berman)
UPDATE (11:05 a.m.): White House Rejects House GOP Plan as 'Ransom'
A White House spokesperson made it clear that the House GOP's new plan to raise the debt-limit and reopen the government wouldn't get White House support. The spokesperson called the plan a "ransom," and that the proposal is just a "partisan attempt to appease a small group of Tea Party Republicans who forced the government shutdown in the first place."
So, unless the House GOP plan manages to get veto-proof support in the Senate, it seems to be going nowhere. (By Matt Berman)
UPDATE (10:48 a.m.): House Democratic Leadership Speaks
Or, well, tweets:
GOP's latest plan is designed to torpedo the bipartisan Sen solution. Plan is not only reckless, it's tantamount to default.— Chris Van Hollen (@ChrisVanHollen) October 15, 2013
The House plan will likely need some Democrats to come on board in order to pass the House. Right now, that's looking like it won't be easy.
UPDATE (10:13 a.m.): The Word From Harry Reid
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did not acknowledge the House plan as he opened the Senate today. Instead, Reid said he's still optimistic that he and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will come to an agreement "this week" that would prevent default and reopen government. More on the emergin plan here .
UPDATE (10:06 a.m.): Can the New House GOP Plan Even Pass the House?
There are reports out this morning that House GOP leadership isn't planning on whipping the new plan before taking it to the floor for a vote. The plan, in its heavy reflection of the Senate plan, may not be enough for some House conservatives, and it certainly may be too much for many Democrats.
So, even before considering whether or not the new plan can make it in the Senate, we'll first have to see if it can survive in the House.
House Republicans are still meeting this morning. Staff has recently been kicked out. (By Matt Berman)
UPDATE (9:51 a.m.): Today's Outlook in the House
The new House GOP plan is expected to go to the Rules Committee this afternoon, and should get a vote by tonight.
Hearing House may pass its bill and then skip town.— Ramesh Ponnuru (@RameshPonnuru) October 15, 2013
(By Tim Alberta)
UPDATE (9:39 a.m.): The New Plan From House Republicans
House GOP leadership is looking to move their own bill today, reports National Review's Robert Costa. That deal, which is expected to be unveiled this morning, would include far more changes to Obamacare than the Senate is currently proposing. The House GOP plan, according to Costa, would match the Senate by funding the government until January 15, and raising the debt-limit to February 7. The plan would also tighten income verification, like the Senate plan. But it diverges from there.
The plan includes a two-year medical device tax delay, and aspects of Sen. David Vitter's plan to strip health-care subsidies for members of Congress, and cabinet members. Unlike the original Vitter plan though, that the current reported plan wouldn't impact subsidies for Congressional staff. None of this is likely to fly with Senate Democrats.
The plan would also include provisions to strip the ability of the Treasury to use "extraordinary measures" to push back the debt-limit. Those moves by the Treasury delayed the debt-ceiling this time around from May 18 until just about now. Removing this ability makes any new debt-ceiling deadline concrete. Speaker Boehner is expected to deliver a statement to the press shortly. (By Matt Berman)
Matt Berman, Michael Catalini, Tim Alberta, Elahe Izadi and Marina Koren contributed to this article.