Boehner Sways Holdouts with Balanced Budget Amendment

He can get the bill through the House only if he makes it impossible to pass in the Senate

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House Speaker John Boehner will likely pass his plan to raise the debt ceiling--shelved Thursday night because he couldn't get the votes--by adding a provision that would require a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution to pass both chambers of Congress and be sent to the states for ratification before the limit is raised a second time. Fifty-three senators had already promised to vote down Boehner's plan before the amendment was added, so, as Teagan Goddard writes, "ironically, it seems the only way to pass the bill in the House is to make it more unacceptable to the Senate." And yet the tweaked version of Boehner's bill is still not tough enough for some House conservatives, because the amendment wouldn't require a two-thirds majority in Congress to raise taxes.

The Hill reports that the new plan would raise the debt limit in two increments through the 2012 elections. The second increase, which would need to happen early next year, can only occur after the House and Senate pass a balanced-budget amendment--either the one offered in the "cut, cap, and balance" plan, or one that passed in the 1990s.
But that plan is still too wimpy for some. Rep. Tom McClintock told Politico he doubted he'd vote yes. Rep. Joe Walsh isn't convinced either, Slate's Dave Weigel reports. "If you save it for the second tranche, I'm not sure that it's enforceable," Walse said, explaining why he was still voting against Boehner's bill. "We should do it now." (On the other hand, Rep. Louie Gohmert, on the other hand, who said he was a "bloodied and beaten no" Thursday, is now leaning yes, NBC News reports.) Weigel says the addition of the balanced-budget amendment is a PR victory for conservatives, because:
If it works, Republicans can say what they wanted to say yesterday: "We've passed two bills, and the Senate hasn't passed anything." But they'd be in a weaker position than they were yesterday, because they've proven that they can't pass a bill without a BBA hostage situation. How would markets react to the threat of an early 2012 debt limit vote that requires a supermajority for passage? We'll never find out. All we found out this morning is that Boehner is as weak as Democrats said he was in his relationship with conservatives.
Meanwhile, Harry Reid is moving forward with his own debt ceiling plan, still adamant that Boehner's bill has no chance in the Senate. But it looks like that's not what matters to Boehner right now: ABC News' Jonathan Karl tweeted Friday afternoon, "@SpeakerBoehner just stopped by a pizza lunch w/ Senate Republicans (in the Strom Thurmond room, of course). Got a standing ovation."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.