In Giant Waste of Time, Boehner Debt-Ceiling Bill Passes; Constitutional Amendment Provision Added
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, finally got his debt-celing bill to the floor of the House of Representatives this evening, where it passed by a vote of 218-210. As the clock ticked down toward default and the stock market continued to fall, House Republicans wasted the last several days wrangling over a bill that all agree will be summarily rejected by the Senate.
As AlterNet reported, Boehner, in a sharp challenge to his leadership of the Republican majority in the House, was unable to muster the votes needed to pass the bill last night, even after announcing earlier that day that he expected a victorious evening. But members of Congress most staunchly affiliated with the Tea Party movement refused to sign onto a bill that demanded $900 billion in spending cuts in exchange for allowing the government to continue borrowing to pay its debts for the next few months. For some in the Tea Party crowd, this was simply not enough.
So, today, Boehner went back to the drawing board, bringing along his most stubborn members with a provision for a constitutional amendment for a "balanced budget" -- one that, come February, would not allow the government to borrow further unless the amendment had been sent to the states for ratification by the archivist of the United States. The bill also did not allow for any new revenue, not even for the lifting of the Bush tax cuts from the top income-earners.
Here's how Politico describes the bill's provisions:
As adopted, the Boehner debt bill allows for two adjustments in Treasury’s borrowing authority, each contingent on achieving at least matching savings.
The first—a $900 billion increase in the debt ceiling—would begin to phase in almost immediately and is paired with an estimated $917 billion in 10 year savings wrung out of future appropriations bills to fund government operations.
The second –for $1.6 trillion—is expected to be needed in about six months but can only happen if Congress first agrees to major new savings from a broad cross-section of government benefit and healthcare programs, including Medicare.
Significant advance work has already been done in the course of deficit talks led by Biden and Obama’s subsequent negotiations with Boehner. But the House bill sets the savings target so high at $1.8 trillion that Democrats fear it is designed to fail at the worst moment for the president going into the 2012 elections.