Sounding Like a Deal

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 31 2011 10:13 AM

Sounding Like a Deal

We got very good news last night when the 1 a.m. vote on Harry Reid's debt plan was stricken from the schedule. Had the vote been held, the plan would have failed -- at best, it would have garnered 57 votes and crumbled before a filibuster. A GOP source had assured me that the Boehner plan, not the Reid plan, would be the basis for any compromise.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Instead, as Jon Karl reports, things are looking deal-ier.

A debt ceiling increase of up to $2.1 to $2.4 trillion (depending on the size of the spending cuts agreed to in the final deal).

That's about the size of the increase that both Boehner and Reid agreed on.

They have now agreed to spending cuts of roughly $1.2 trillion over 10 years.

That's from Reid and Boehner again -- Republicans did not deny that Reid's plan contained real spending cuts.

The formation of a special Congressional committee to recommend further deficit reduction of up to $1.6 trillion (whatever it takes to add up to the total of the debt ceiling increase). This deficit reduction could take the form of spending cuts, tax increases or both. The special committee must make recommendations by late November (before Congress' Thanksgiving recess).

Again, from both plans -- although the details of a possible commission recommendation terrify Democrats.

If Congress does not approve those cuts by December 23, automatic across-the-board cuts go into effect, including cuts to Defense and Medicare. This "trigger" is designed to force action on the deficit reduction committee's recommendations by making the alternative painful to both Democrats and Republicans.

"Trigger" is a fun word for this -- you might as well call it the machine gun. If you paid attention to floor debate yesterday, you saw that Republicans still deal the "only Democrats want to cut Medicare!" card when they're in a jam. Now we either automatically cut Medicare or negotiate Medicare cuts in a joint committee.

A vote, in both the House and Senate, on a balanced budget amendment.

We've been around the carousel on this one. Cut, Cap, and Balance required passage of a strict BBA in both houses before a hike in the debt ceiling -- any hike in the debt ceiling. Boehner 1.0 required only that a BBA be voted on, and allowed "BBA classic," the 1995 version of the amendment that didn't include supermajority requirements for tax hikes, to fit the bill. Boehner 2.0 required that a BBA be passed before the second "tranche" of the debt increase -- effectively sending us down the road to a 2/3 vote for the next debt limit hike.

The Senate comes into session at noon. Any deal needs to be choked down by the House and Senate; a depressingly large part of the sale will consist of convincing either party that, no, seriously, this was based on the deal their leader came up with.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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