BY LORI MONTGOMERY,
FELICIA SONMEZ AND PAUL KANE
The Washington Post
House Speaker John Boehner sought yesterday to whip his follow Republicans into line behind his bill for a short-term increase in the federal debt ceiling despite a new congressional budget analysis that showed his plan would cut spending less than a rival Senate proposal.
In a closed-door meeting with GOP House members, Boehner (R-Ohio) told skeptical conservatives to "get your ass in line" and drop their opposition to his plan to raise the borrowing limit in two stages tied to deep spending cuts. Boehner had planned to bring the bill to the House floor yesterday, but he postponed a vote on it until today at the earliest in the face of resistance from tea party-allied conservatives, who saw the plan as falling short of the fiscal restraint Republicans promised when they took control of the House in 2010.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said yesterday that a Senate proposal to lift the legal limit on the national debt would slice $2.2 trillion from the federal deficit over the next decade, short of its $2.7 trillion target but far more than the cuts in Boehner's plan.
The CBO analysis found that the measure drafted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) would cut about $840 billion from agency budgets through 2021, roughly the same as the proposal by Boehner. But Reid also claims significant savings from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The CBO found that those savings account for more than $1.1 trillion, making up about half of Reid's debt-reduction package.
Republicans have dismissed the inclusion of war savings as a budget gimmick, arguing that the nation has no intention of spending that money.
Faced with the partisan gridlock in Congress and a looming Aug. 2 deadline to raise the debt ceiling or risk U.S. default on its obligations, House Democrats yesterday urged President Obama to invoke the 14th Amendment to the Constitution as a "fail-safe" mechanism to increase the federal borrowing limit unilaterally.
They referred to a clause in the amendment saying the "validity of the public debt of the United States . . . shall not be questioned," which some interpret to mean that the president has the authority to raise the debt ceiling without congressional approval. However, the Obama White House has not endorsed that interpretation.
For their part, GOP leaders told the meeting of the House Republican Conference in the basement of the Capitol that their party must remain united and rally around Boehner's bill. Boehner said his bill will be rewritten to cut more from the deficit or to raise the debt ceiling by less than the initial $900 billion he proposed earlier this week.