The Republican proposal to raise the federal government’s debt ceiling was dealt a blow late Tuesday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which determined that it would save less than promised. After crunching the numbers, the CBO found that it would save only $851 billion over the next 10 years, not the more than $1 trillion that House Speaker John Boehner announced on Monday, and just $1 billion next year.
House Republican leaders had to postpone a Wednesday vote on the measure, which would raise the debt ceiling by about $1 trillion and require Congress to revisit the matter in six months, as a result of the CBO’s score. But that’s not the only problem they face. Despite calls from Minority Leader Eric Cantor on Tuesday for members to “stop grumbling and whining” about the Boehner plan, even though “the debt limit vote sucks,” many far-right conservatives are still balking at what they say is an inadequate level of spending cuts. In addition, like the budget continuing resolution passed during the lame duck session that most members of Congress on both sides of the aisle also thought “sucked,” any debt limit measure will likely require the support of both Republicans and Democrats to pass in the House.
And then there’s the Senate. The chamber’s Majority Leader Harry Reid has declared the Boehner plan dead on arrival on his side of the capitol.
“Speaker Boehner's plan is not a compromise. It was written for the Tea Party, not the American people. Democrats will not vote for it,” Reid told reporters.
President Obama has pushed for raising the debt limit through 2012 and said he would veto a short-term extension. He is backing a Reid proposal that would raise the debt limit but does not include any revenue raisers.
The White House announced Tuesday that it “strongly opposes” the Boehner plan, and if it were to make it to the president for signature, his “senior advisors would recommend that he veto this bill.”
So, what happens next? Lawmakers from both parties continue to say that the country will not default on its debt. But Republicans, who control the House, are “deeply divided,” says Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pennsylvania).
“We have a situation where they believe it’s better to split the Republican Party than to appear to be caving in on what they say are their principles,” he said. “They say they came here to cut spending and they don’t believe that defaulting is really going to hurt the country. So, even though economists think the opposite, they have their own set of facts they’re operating off of, I guess.”
Meanwhile, voters have heeded Obama’s call to let lawmakers know where they stand on the issue. According to Fattah, the phone lines at the Capitol were “jumping off the hook” Tuesday.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) worries about the impact increased economic turmoil will have on African-Americans if the government defaults on its financial obligations or makes extreme budget cuts.
“Twenty percent of African Americans work for some government entity. So when you’ve got cutbacks at the federal, state and local level, and a lot of it has to do with the federal cuts, that means a lot of African-Americans who never imagined losing their jobs are going to be losing their jobs,” Cummings said. “I hear Republicans constantly say that in a struggling economy we can’ t afford to raise taxes, but at the same time we can’t afford to allow people already struggling ... to drown.”
(Photo: Charles Dharapak/AP Photo)