A 24 hour delay, and the revival of Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) debt limit plan in the House have changed the legislative calculus in Congress, and now Senate Democrats are piecing together how to move forward if Boehner prevails Thursday evening.
“It appears quite clear that Boehner — a favor was done by CBO for him yesterday because his bill was doomed to failure,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters Wednesday. “And he can juggle things around, and had a caucus today, and he may get it passed, but it doesn’t matter. That is a flawed piece of legislation.”
Reid says Democrats will decide precisely how to proceed once the gavel comes down on Boehner’s vote. House Democrats are expected to oppose that bill unanimously, making Boehner’s margin for error very thin — but momentum within his caucus is in his favor with just over 24 hours before that vote.
If it succeeds, and the House sends it over to the Senate, Reid will have to decide whether to bring it up for a symbolic vote, move directly to his own debt limit plan, which Republicans oppose, or change it in a way that will garner bipartisan support.
“I could have a vote on the Boehner plan in a matter of minutes — procedurally I can do that,” Reid said, “If they get that over here it will be defeated, if we bring it up earlier it will be defeated…. Every Democratic senator will vote against it.”
Whatever procedural machinations Reid uses, Boehner’s plan isn’t going to be the plan Congress sends to President Obama. “It’ll be altered if it gets over here,” Reid promised, “it’s fairly easy to do procedurally.”
Everyone in Congress is keenly aware that there are only six days between now and August 2, when the Treasury runs out of borrowing authority, and will be forced to slash huge amounts of spending. At this point, leaders are left hoping that the fear of a default will keep procedural delays to a minimum, so that when a bipartisan agreement emerges — that leaders of both parties in both chambers, and President Obama all support — it doesn’t get bogged down by filibusters or other hijinx.
“Magic things can happen here in Congress in a very short period of time under the right circumstances,” Reid said.
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.