24 Hours – Where’s Jack Bauer When You Need Him?

If it sounds familiar, it’s because it is. The House is now voting on a version of the Reid debt reduction proposal even though Reid doesn’t even have the votes to bring it to the floor in the Senate as yet.   Nonetheless, House Republicans want to make clear that the current Reid proposal has no chance of passing the House.  It’s too nice a day for me to watch the vote unfold, so let me tell you beforehand how it will turn out: Reid’s bill will go down to defeat,  particularly since it was taken up under special House procedures called “suspension of rules” that are normally utilized for non-controversial measures.  Under the suspended rules, there is limited time for debate – 20 minutes for each side – and there are no amendments allowed.  Passage requires 2/3 of the House – and that’s not going to happen in a Republican-dominated chamber.  So the Reid bill will fail on almost straight party line vote.

Meanwhile, back in the Senate, Reid is trying to drum up the requisite 60 votes to invoke cloture sometimes in the wee morning hours of Sunday – a first step in his own bid to bring a debt ceiling bill to vote.  Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has other ideas, however, and has already informed Reid that he has 43 Republican Senators pledged to oppose the latest Reid plan, which would essentially give President Obama the power to raise the national debt limit in two separate stages of $1.2 trillion each.  This would be paired with $2.4 trillion cuts in spending over the next ten years.

With Boehner’s bill tabled in the Senate, and Reid’s bill not likely to even come to a vote, the stage is set for a deal that will almost certainly center in part on the preferences of the four Republican Senate moderates who didn’t sign McConnell’s letter: Alaska’s Murkowski, Maine’s Snowe and Collins, and Scott Brown who holds the Kennedy seat in Massachusetts.  At this stage I’m betting both sides will agree to a short-term extension of the debt ceiling past August 2 to let negotiations play out.

One interesting twist to the negotiations is McConnell’s demand that President Obama take a public seat at the negotiating table, rather than participating behind the scenes.  With his approval level at 40% – the lowest Gallup rating for his presidency – the debt dispute is clearly taking a toll politically not just  on Congress, but on Obama as well. The recent bad economic numbers aren’t helping either.  With this backdrop, McConnell wants to make sure that Obama cannot portray himself as the mediator in chief – the “adult” responsible for bringing the two feuding children to the table.  Instead, McConnell wants Obama to roll up his sleeves and join the food fight. Even some Democrats are apparently voicing private complaints that Obama has not been forceful enough in these negotiations.

The next 24 hours should be crucial.  If word begins to leak regarding the outlines of a compromise deal, I’ll come back online.  Meanwhile, where’s Jack Bauer when you need him?


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