Debt crisis: House to vote on revised debt bill
"Magic things can happen here in Congress in a very short period of time under the right circumstances," Reid told reporters.
Unless Congress acts by Tuesday, administration officials say, the government will not be able to pay all its bills. They include $23 billion in Social Security benefits due Aug. 3, an $87 billion payment to investors to redeem maturing Treasury securities and more than $30 billion in interest payments that come due Aug. 15.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and other officials warn that a default could prove catastrophic for an economy still recovering from the worst recession in decades. But some skeptics, including conservative Republicans like Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, say Geithner can manage Treasury's cash flow to avoid a catastrophe if Congress fails to act.
House Republicans tweaked their measure Wednesday to enhance its prospects of passage after a worse-than expected cost estimate from congressional budget analysts on Tuesday. The changes were modest, but under arcane budget conventions, they brought projected savings for 2012 to $22 billion, part of a 10-year cut of $917 billion. That would trigger a $900 billion increase in the debt limit.
While the Boehner and Reid measures differed in key details, they also shared similarities that underscored the concessions made by the two sides in recent days. Reid's bill does not envision a tax increase to reduce deficits, a bow to Republicans. But neither does the House measure require passage of a constitutional balanced budget amendment for state ratification, a step in the direction of Obama and the Democrats.
For Boehner, the vote shaped up as a critical test of his ability to lead a fractious majority that includes 87 first-term lawmakers, many of them elected with tea party support. Passage also was imperative to maximize Boehner's leverage with Obama and Reid in a fast-approaching endgame.
Boehner showed fire in a meeting Wednesday with the Republican caucus.
"Get your ass in line," Boehner told the rank and file. "I can't do this job unless you're behind me."
But one such first-term Republican said again Thursday he likely would oppose the measure.
"Right now, I can't" vote for it, Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois told CBS's "The Early Show."
He did give Boehner credit for working hard on the problem and called the speaker's proposal "a step in the right direction."
Walsh said that Congress is "too obsessed" with the Aug. 2 default deadline, saying chances of getting more meaningful deficit-reduction right would be better if lawmakers weren't wedded to that drop-dead date. "We've got plenty of revenues in August to service our debt," he said.
If House conservatives torpedo the bill, any follow-up probably would require Democratic votes to pass. That, in turn, would mean smaller spending cuts than Republicans are seeking in exchange for raising the nation's $14.3 trillion debt limit.
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