Posted Sunday, July 31, 2011, at 2:45 PM
The headline is "Reid Bill Fails to Get 60 Votes in Senate." The headline is meaningless. The Reid plan that came to the Senate floor as an amendment to the Boehner plan was never going to pass. The vote served two functions -- smothering that plan with a pillow and bringing senators together again where they could be school on the new new new deal.
And the new new new deal is looking likely to pass. As they exited the vote today, senators from both parties said they were confident something would be done and passed before August 2nd. There's general agreement that moving a deal through the House would be tougher than moving it through the Senate. The biggest impediment in the Senate would be, theoretically, getting unanimous consent to start moving. Even stalwart Tea Party Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said he could agree with that.
"I'm against anything passing with less than a 60-vote margin," he said, "but if they collapse the time I'm okay with that."
So the discussion of the last hour has been about the triggers. For the joint committee to work, it needs to have what senators openly describe as "threats" -- horrifying cuts that make people think twice about giving up on the committee. But what Democrats are being asked to give up now are tax hikes as triggers. It's possible that the triggers will consist of entitlement and defense cuts, but not tax hikes. Democrats, battered and ready to deal, freely admit that this is horrible. When Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., was asked if he wanted revenue triggers, he was blunt.
"Yeah, sure, but there isn't one," he shrugged. "It's not one of the triggers."
Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., was asked a hypothetical question. What if the committee fell apart because Republicans wouldn't agree to revenue increases/tax hikes? In that case, weren't Republicans well placed to get what they wanted from the triggers?
"Sure," he said. "You have to ask yourself, what's the alternative."