With investors growing increasingly anxious about whether Washington will make the Aug. 2 deadline for raising the federal debt ceiling, the stock market tumbled Wednesday, sending the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index down 2 percent, the most in nearly two months.
Republicans claimed that momentum was on their side as Boehner spent Wednesday afternoon huddling with members of the 87-strong class of freshmen that delivered him the gavel after the 2010 midterm elections. But aides and lawmakers suggested the decisive votes could belong to about two dozen veterans with no strong allegiance to their leadership. Some estimates showed nearly 20 Republicans declaring their intent to oppose the bill.
Republicans received a dose of good news when congressional budget analysts credited Boehner’s legislation with $917 billion in spending cuts. Boehner’s team had revised the bill Tuesday night after the Congressional Budget Office estimated that
the initial draft represented $850 billion in reductions, far less than he had advertised.
Across the Capitol, Reid continued to oppose Boehner’s two-step approach to lifting the debt ceiling, which would entail expanding the government’s borrowing authority for a few months and then holding another vote early next year on a further increase.
“It’ll be altered,” Reid told reporters, “if it gets over here.”
Reid’s own deficit-reduction plan, which calls for raising the debt ceiling enough to cover federal obligations into 2013, faced challenges of its own from the GOP, which objects to the accounting in the bill.
The next move depends on the House vote scheduled for Thursday.
If the Boehner legislation survives that white-knuckle roll call, it will move across to the Senate, where Reid is expected to amend it. He held late-afternoon discussions with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in their continuing effort to craft a compromise that could clear the Senate by the end of the weekend.
Under this scenario, the amended bill would go back to the House for another vote early next week. But Senate Republicans could balk at any changes in the Boehner bill, forcing President Obama and Senate allies to choose between the legislation or the prospect of default.
If Boehner’s bill fails in the Thursday vote, Democrats say, Reid’s current proposal would ultimately prevail, perhaps with some revisions designed to win bipartisan support.