Delayed Debt Ceiling Vote Means Wasted Day, And Perhaps Much Worse

Reid, Boehner

Photo: AP Photo/Harry Hamburg

Tuesday night’s announcement that the vote on Speaker of the House John Boehner’s plan to raise the debt limit would be postponed is a significant setback for the negotiations, with only days until the August 2nd deadline set by the Obama administration.Yesterday afternoon the Boehner plan was a goner; Republicans were abandoning it, President Barack Obama threatened to veto it, and Democrats were lined up to shoot it down. But the decision to rewrite the plan to include more spending cuts has put it on life support.

That is not a good thing. The Boehner plan has to die for this Congress to raise the debt limit.

It would have been voted down in the Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called it “dead on arrival,” but the House GOP proposal was poised to fail in the House as well — a development that would have pushed moderate Republicans to embrace the nearly-identical Reid plan.

Indeed, the road to a compromise appeared certain before the CBO scoring. Now at minimum, the delayed vote costs one day of legislative progress. (Reid is holding his plan until after the House of Representatives votes on Boehner’s.)

At worst, the delay allows Boehner to rewrite his plan into something that can unite the GOP caucus — which means he makes it more unpalatable to Senate Democrats — and we’re back at a high-stakes stalemate with even less time before the deadline.

Boehner has pledged to make his plan available online for three calendar days before a vote — meaning that while tentatively scheduled for tomorrow, his revised bill might not be taken up until Friday.

Whether the Senate can act on the Reid proposal in time — let alone amend it and send it back to the House for another vote as expected— remains an open question.

In the meantime, the credit rating agencies are demanding that the debt limit be raised by August 2nd or they may downgrade U.S. debt. The clock’s ticking.

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