Gangs and Grand Bargains Are Still No Match for the House

As senators congratulate themselves on a debt deal, the House remains skeptical

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Both Democratic and Republican senators are pretty pleased with themselves for reviving the Gang of Six, the once left-for-dead debt ceiling negotiating group that offered a $3.7 trillion plan to raise the limit and cut the deficit Tuesday. One of the six, Sen. Mark Warner, proudly tells The New York Times' Michael D. Shear that the deal has been an "obsession" for him for weeks, even as he "wanted to pull out my hair." Fellow gangster Saxby Chamblis tells Politico's Manu Raju how he helped save the deal by forcing Tom Coburn--who quit in May but just rejoined the group--to have dinner with him every night on Washington's H Street. "This is a monumental achievement of statesmanship," Sen. Roger Wicker told Roll Call's Steven T. Dennis. But there's a catch. A couple, really. First, there's not enough time to actually pass the "grand bargain" before the August 2 deadline to raise the debt ceiling and avoid default. Second, the House of Representatives is just not feeling this deal.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told Dennis that "It's not ready for prime time." August 2 comes in less than two weeks--which doesn't give the Congressional Budget Office time to analyze its cost, or staffers enough time to turn the nine-page proposal into a piece of legislation. Still, parts of the plan "could make it into a final deal to raise the debt limit, and it could lay the groundwork for a major deficit-reduction package later this year," Raju reports.
Further, many House Republicans will not tolerate any measures to increase government revenues--be they closing tax loopholes or increasing rates. The Gang of Six's deal adds $1 trillion in new revenues, Raju reports. His colleague David Rogers writes that "the harsh, personal nature" of the debate Tuesday night, before the House passed a Tea Party-favored deficit plan by a vote of 234 to 190, shows how difficult it will be to get both chambers to agree on a plan. That package, called "cut, cap, and balance," would force steep spending cuts and a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. It has no chance of passing the Senate. Rogers explains, "the House GOP remains unyielding on new taxes," and the biggest issue now is seeing what part of the proposal it might find appealing. House Speaker John Boehner "could potentially be attracted by the outline of the Gang's plan--giving assignments to legislative committees to act," Rogers writes.
The plan has a lot in common with the "grand bargain" Boehner was working on with President Obama until his conservative caucus forced him to pull out. Boehner's spokesman told reporters, "This plan shares many similarities with the framework the speaker discussed with the president, but also appears to fall short in some important areas."  Roll Call's John Stanton says it's Boehner's leadership style that has made raising the debt limit so difficult. Boehner worked to decentralize power, and now that's working against him. Stanton explains,
In theory, the open debates on the floor, the wrangling over the continuing resolution and a series of educational efforts should have resulted in a Conference which, while strongly conservative, still recognized that legislating at its core requires a certain amount of compromise and accepting the best deal possible.
Instead, a vocal portion of Boehner's rank and file has, as one aide put it, "allowed the perfect to be the enemy of the good" while breeding distrust for leadership.
In the meantime, The Hill's Mike Lillis reports that the main backup to the Gang of Six's deal is facing more opposition. The Plan B put forth by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell--and immediately denounced by conservatives--is now getting attacked by House Democrats. McConnell hasn't said whether he supports the gang's proposal.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.