What the final deal is likely to look like
The big question today is whether Boehner’s bill passes in the House. But the answer — which is probably, though not certainly, “yes” — doesn’t matter that much. If it passes the House, then as Suzy Khimm explains in detail, it will simply fail in the Senate. And then where are we?
Nowhere new, I fear. Today’s vote is not a practice vote for the final bill. It’s a referendum on Boehner. Boehner’s task today is to lose fewer than 23 of his members. Any more than that, and he either needs Democratic votes or the bill fails. If that happens, then his speakership is seriously, perhaps even fatally, weakened. The outcome will show us whether the speaker of the House can call on his conference in a crunch, but little more than that.
The final bill will not pass through the House on a party-line vote. It will be a compromise proposal, and Boehner will lose far more than 23 of his members. He’ll likely lose 50, 60, 80, even 100. They’ll have to be replaced by Democratic votes. And so his task will be to furnish a compromise that most House Republicans can vote for and enough House Democrats can vote for. The smart money in Washington continues to be on some hybrid of the Boehner/Reid/McConnell plans. If I had to place a bet now, I’d say the final deal looks something like this:
Cuts: $1.2 trillion in discretionary spending cuts, with somewhat more of the total falling on defense spending than in Boehner’s bill and somewhat less of the total falling on defense spending than in Reid’s bill.
Committee: The bipartisan “Supercommittee” will be formed and charged with developing a plan that cuts the deficit by $1.8 trillion or more. Unlike in Boehner’s plan, future debt-ceiling increases will not require passage of the committee’s plan. But unlike in Reid’s plan, there will be a “trigger” mechanism that begins making automatic, across-the-board cuts if their plan — or some variant — isn’t adopted.
Debt ceiling: The debt ceiling will be raised by $1 trillion upon passage of the plan. Further increases will be done through the McConnell mechanism: The president will essentially be able to raise the debt ceiling on his own, but Congress will be able to issue resolutions of disapproval if and when he does so.
Wild cards: Boehner’s plan requires a future vote on a balanced budget amendment. I’d expect that will be part of the final deal.
So we’re looking at deal with no new revenue, significant new spending cuts, a spending-cut based enforcement mechanism for further deficit reduction, a series of debt-ceiling votes designed to embarrass Democrats, and a vote on a balanced budget amendment that’s also designed to embarrass Democrats. It’s a pretty good deal for Republicans, but it’s also a deal that observers expect a substantial number of Democrats could vote for.