Debt Limit: John Boehner Plan Receives a Lot Of Criticism

House Speaker John Boehner saw opposition grow Tuesday against his plan to raise the debt ceiling, but this time it was coming from within his own party. He decided to rework his proposal and delay a vote until Thursday.

Mr Boehner's plan would also require another debt limit agreement in about six months, something Mr Obama has publicly declared he will not accept. Photo: Talk Radio News Service/Flickr

Mr. Boehner presented a two-stage plan on Monday that would allow the $14.3 trillion federal debt limit to rise immediately by about $1 trillion in exchange for $1.2 trillion in spending cuts.

The plan tied a second increase early next year to the ability of a new bipartisan Congressional committee to produce more reductions.

Mr Boehner’s plan would also require another debt limit agreement in about six months, something Mr Obama has publicly declared he will not accept.

Mr Boehner was forced to rewrite his plan after the Congressional Budget Office, the official non-partisan score-keeper in fiscal legislation, said it would generate less than the $1.2tn (£730bn) in budget savings he had initially announced.

Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Boehner said: “I think I made it pretty clear last night: the president’s looking for a blank cheque. It’s reasonable,” Mr Boehner said of his plan. “It’s responsible. It can pass the House, and it can pass the Senate.”

A coalition of several hundred Tea Party chapters declared Tuesday that a vote for Boehner’s debt plan constitutes a violation of its pledge, which 51 Republican lawmakers have signed.

The group, known as the Cut, Cap and Balance Coalition, notified its members of its position in a Tuesday memo entitled, “Clarification of the CCB Coalition Stance on the Speaker’s Proposal.”

“The greatest concern to the ‘Cut, Cap and Balance’ Coalition is the integrity of the ‘Cut, Cap and Balance’ Pledge that was signed by 39 House Members and 12 Senators, and whether voting for the proposed deal constitutes a Pledge violation,” reads the memo.” “We hold that is does violate the pledge, on several grounds.”

Twelve Senators and 39 Representatives, all Republicans, have signed the coalition’s pledge. Among them: Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.), and Reps. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and Allen West (Fla.).

The House is expected to vote on Boehner’s bill on Wednesday. Some lawmakers who signed the Cut, Cap and Balance pledge have already said they won’t support Boehner’s plan, including Reps. Jason Chaffetz (Utah) and Jim Jordan (Ohio). Jordan chairs the conservative House Republican Study Committee, which boasts a whopping 170 members.

Therefore, the memo concludes, “the argument proffered by some Members of Congress who have signed the CCB Pledge that voting for the Boehner bill is not a Pledge violation … is fallacious.”

Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, waiting to see how Mr. Boehner’s measure fares, has not brought his own debt legislation to the floor.

Mr. Reid’s proposal would raise the debt ceiling through 2012 and cut $1.2 trillion from federal agency budgets and recurring programs like agriculture subsidies. Like some earlier Republican plans, the plan also counts about $1 trillion in savings from winding down combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Speaker Boehner’s plan is not a compromise,” Mr. Reid said, after meeting with Senate Democrats, referring to the earlier version of the bill.

“It was written for the Tea Party and not the American people. Democrats will not vote for it. Democrats will not vote for it. It’s dead on arrival in the Senate, if they get it out of the House.”

Although Wall Street analysts and some Republicans expressed doubt that time would really run out on Aug. 2, leading to a possible default, the White House said that Treasury’s estimate of the deadline was not a charade.

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner “has exercised all the wiggle room available to him,” said Jay Carney, the White House spokesman.

Dan Weiser, a spokesman for the chamber’s chief administrative officer, said the calls spiked at midday when members’ offices received about 40,000 phone calls — about double a normal hour’s call volume.

The US runs a budget deficit that topped $1.5tn (£920bn) this year, and has amassed a national debt of $14.3tn. [via Huffpost, The New York Times and BBC]

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