In a speech Thursday morning on the Senate floor, Reid said: “Republicans cannot get the short-term Band-Aid they will vote on in the House today. It will not get one Democratic vote in the Senate. . . . The economy needs more certainty than the speaker’s proposal would provide.”
The White House also lashed out against Boehner’s bill, with press secretary Jay Carney calling it a “political act” that guarantees another “three-ring circus” over the debt limit in a matter of months.
In a White House news briefing, Carney said the measure would further damage the economy, increasing the “uncertainty” that Republicans often point to as a damper on economic growth.
“It’s incredibly bad for the economy to have this kind of circus go on in Washington,” he said.
The Senate bill
Democrats were instead backing a variant of the Boehner bill that Reid planned to introduce. That measure would make the same cuts to agency budgets and establish the same debt-reduction committee. But Reid’s legislation would also count more than $1 trillion in savings from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an accounting move Republicans decried as a gimmick. More important, the Democratic bill would extend the debt limit into 2013.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pledged his support for the Boehner bill. Though he spoke Wednesday with Vice President Biden, McConnell’s aides denied that he was working to forge a compromise with Democrats.
In a speech Thursday morning, McConnell argued that Democrats would support the Boehner legislation if not for the requirement for a second debt limit vote early next year.
“It doesn’t allow the president to avoid another national debate about spending and debt until after the next presidential election,” McConnell said. “This assurance is the only thing the president and Senate Democrats are holding out for right now.”
Democrats highlighted the concerns of market experts, releasing a video Thursday in which several warned that Boehner’s plan could prolong the feuding over the debt ceiling and prompt credit-rating agencies to downgrade the nation’s AAA rating.
As the debt-limit drama stretched on, one truth became apparent: House leaders had come face to face with the realities of governing in a new Washington, where trading earmarks for votes was no longer an option and Boehner’s pledge to let the House work its will was making it far more difficult for leaders to impose theirs.
Shortly before 9 p.m., Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who had expressed opposition to the Boehner plan, exited McCarthy’s office. He declined to tell reporters if his views had changed. But he praised the lack of horse-trading of the type that marred passage of Obama’s health-care legislation. “It is the most refreshing thing in the world to see what’s going on in there,” Flake said. “This kind of negotiation a couple years ago would have cost about $20 billion.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-N.Y.) waxed philosophical about the situation, saying the GOP theatrics have convinced her that Congress should not have the power to put limits on Treasury borrowing at all. After all, Democrats have argued, the debt is the result of budget decisions Congress itself has made over the years.
“Frankly, I have pondered all this day. Why does the United States of America go through this process?” Slaughter told a reporter. “Nobody else in the world does. It makes no sense at all.”
Staff writers Felicia Sonmez and Amy Gardner contributed to this report.