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Debt crisis: House to vote on revised debt bill

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WASHINGTON (AP) - House Republican leaders have abruptly delayed a vote on a bill extending the government's debt limit and cutting federal spending.

House Speaker John Boehner's spokesman, Michael Steel, said it was "a sensible assumption" that Boehner was still trying to round up the needed votes. Steel said the vote would still happen Thursday night.

The House was nearing the end of its debate on the legislation when Republicans suddenly shifted gears. They instead moved to a bill renaming a post office in Peoria, Ill.

GOP leaders have been laboring to line up the 216 votes the debt bill would need to pass the House, and they have encountered opposition from some conservatives. There are 240 Republicans in the House.
Few if any Democrats are expected to support the measure.

As the House prepared to vote Thursday, investor worries that a dysfunctional Congress might remain gridlocked sent stocks plunging. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped almost 200 points Wednesday, on top of a 92-point drop the day before.

The House Republican freshmen who helped win the House majority for their party say they'll vote yes later Thursday on the GOP plan to raise the debt limit.

More than a dozen of the GOP rookies told reporters that virtually all of the 87-member class is now behind Speaker John Boehner's plan. Most of the freshmen said they'd only decided to vote yes in the last few days.

Key to their decision, they said, was a commitment to hold a vote on a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. And they bristled at the notion by tea party activists that the bill, and their support for it, is a compromise that amounts to failure.

To the contrary, replied New York Republican Ann Marie Buerkle. She said that compromise is leadership.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, made headway with balky conservatives unhappy that the measure contains smaller spending cuts than a more stringent debt measure that passed the House last week. The new measure depends on caps on agency budgets to cut more than $900 billion from the deficit over the coming decade while permitting a commensurate increase in the nation's borrowing to allow the government to pay its bills.

Boehner acknowledged that the measure was hardly perfect but represented "the best opportunity we have to hold the president's feet to the fire. He wants a $2.4 trillion blank check that lets him continue his spending binge through the next election. This is the time to say no." Boehner made the comments Wednesday to conservative radio host Laura Ingraham.

The White House threatened a veto, saying the bill did not meet President Barack Obama's demand for an increase in the debt limit large enough to prevent a rerun of the current crisis next year, in the heat of the 2012 election campaign.

Instead, Obama supports an alternative drafted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., that contains comparable cuts to agency operating budgets but also claims savings from lowball estimates of war costs. Reid's plan would provide a record-breaking $2.7 trillion in additional borrowing authority, enough to tide the government over through 2012. Reid, however, is plainly short of the votes needed to overcome a GOP filibuster.

While Boehner holds out hope that the Senate will pass his measure, a more likely outcome is a last-ditch effort to find a compromise.

In fact, Boehner's plan has enough in common with Reid's — including the establishment of a special congressional panel to recommend additional spending cuts this fall — that Reid hinted a compromise could be easy to snap together.

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