The Senate Republicans got their 46 votes on the cut, cap and balance plan. Contrary to those supporters of CCB, who have been energetically tweeting and racing to the microphones, they are not “four votes” away. They need 60 for cloture, that would be 14 Democrats. This is silliness.
But there is a viable path forward, made possible by the unity demonstrated by the House. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) either makes a deal with the White House for the Biden-identified cuts plus others or presents his own plan to get over $2 trillion. That would take us into next year. The White House is likely incapable of getting a deal together, so perhaps on Monday Boehner introduces his own plan. Even with some defections, he can easily get it through the House (he persuaded nine Democrats, you may recall, to vote yes on CCB). House members then leave town. That’s it. They did their work.
Then it goes over to the Senate as a “message,” meaning there would be only one cloture vote. Twelve Republicans have locked themselves into the pledge and refuse to accept a deal without a constitutional amendment. (As one Senate Republican put it, “They wouldn’t vote for $20 trillion in cuts if it does not have the balanced-budget amendment.”)
That means Republicans have fewer than 40 votes. So, over to you, Harry Reid. Unless you have 20-some Democrats in the Senate, there is no deal.
Will it work? Nothing else seems likely. Two points should be kept in mind. The signers of the pledge on the balanced-budget amendment are indistinguishable now from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D- N.Y.) — none of them will vote for anything that can pass. As for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan, it has, I think, played a useful role in giving the House something to be against as a “sellout,” thereby (correctly, I would argue) being able to say that they got the best deal they could without a default.
In all of this President Obama is a bit player. And if he didn’t like his slide in the poll numbers while this was going on, he might want to avoid a repeat of this drama next year. How to do that? Tell Boehner to make it $3 trillion in cuts, and then it’s a non-issue until after the election.