Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says Republican leaders are kidding themselves if they think they’ll prevail in their bid to keep new tax revenues out of a grand bargain to lift the nation’s borrowing limit. And to prove it, he says, look no further than the House of Representatives.
[TPM SLIDESHOW: Battle Over The Budget: Behind The Scenes At The White House]
“Speaker Boehner should realize we’re in a different world than we were even a few months ago,” Schumer told reporters at the Capitol Wednesday. “He needs Democrats to pass a bill through the House.”
A number of Republican House members have said they won’t vote to raise the debt limit at all, or only under certain, highly partisan circumstances. Schumer’s math suggests that means he’ll need Democratic votes to pass a viable debt limit bill, and that means new revenues will have to be part of the equation.
“So for Speaker Boehner to say as was mentioned before that he doesn’t have the votes for [new revenues] — well, he doesn’t have the votes if he doesn’t have revenues. Because he’s not going to get Democratic votes without revenues, and he doesn’t have enough Republican votes on his own to cast it,” Schumer said.
It’s possible Boehner could pass a debt limit hike without Democratic support, if he attached key conservative wish-list items to it. But that would be a dead-on-arrival package in the Senate, and that would be a recipe for a default. Inevitably, it seems he’ll need to turn to Democrats for votes.
“That, my friends, is a major difference between this and the [six-month spending bill]. The House can’t just lob things over to us if they don’t have the ability to do so in their caucus,” Schumer said.
Nevertheless, GOP leaders are digging in their heels. “The President is sorely mistaken if he believes a bill to raise the debt ceiling and raise taxes would pass the House,” said House Speaker John Boehner in response to President Obama’s call for new revenues Wednesday. “The votes simply aren’t there - and they aren’t going to be there.”
Congress is running out of time to lift the debt ceiling — and Schumer says they may have less time than they think.
“Wall Street tells me, first that August 2 is the deadline, and second even coming the day before it or two days before it — it’s not like the [six-month spending bill],” Schumer said. “It risks real problems, because this is not totally contained within the government. If the government shuts down, that’s the government. This involves an outside player — a very mystical, magical player called the credit markets. And if the credit markets get spooked, whether it’s August 2 or July 29, there is no recuperation.”
Many rank and file Republicans say they’d like to see the debt limit attached to a Balanced Budget Amendment. But amending the Constitution first requires a two-thirds majority in both chambers. So while Republicans in both chambers line up in lock-step behind the BBA, they’ll likely have to satisfy themselves with a test vote on the issue.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.