GOP puts off debt plan vote

July 28, 2011 at 11:12 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 28 (UPI) -- House Republican leaders said Thursday they are postponing indefinitely a vote on a debt-limit bill by Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, due to lack of GOP support.

"No vote tonight," Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters late Thursday, hours after a planned vote earlier Thursday was delayed while GOP leaders searched for enough votes from recalcitrant Republican House members to secure passage for the bill.

The Rules Committee was to convene late Thursday to pass a rule permitting work on the bill to resume Friday, The Hill reported.

The GOP bill would raise the federal debt ceiling by $900 billion and cut spending by $912 billion, a plan 51 Democrats and two Independents in the Senate have already said they will vote against.

House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier, R-Calif., called the Boehner plan "the closest thing to a bipartisan agreement."

"I don't like this measure, but I'm voting for it. … I want to make sure the United States of America does not default. I urge my colleagues in the name of sanity … that we pass this measure," Dreier said.

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., lambasted the bill, saying, "There is no common ground here, nor was it sought." Hoyer went on to call the plan an "intolerable" motion designed to create a "political impasse" yielding "catastrophic consequences."

Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., echoed Hoyer, saying: "This bill is not bipartisan. The vote will soon show that. It is not a compromise. It brings more uncertainty. A bill that is a bridge to nowhere between our two houses."

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., accused Republicans of playing a "reckless, hypocritical and abusive" game of "fiscal chicken, threatening the full faith and credit of the United States for their own ideological agenda."

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., said the bill incorporates many of the elements sought by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and repeatedly asked his Democratic colleagues, "Where is your plan?"

Before the vote was postponed, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., called the plan a "compromise bill" that should be sent to the Senate Thursday.

Prior to the rules vote that began the debate, House Democrats rose to denounce what they called "the Republican Default Act."

"The Republican Party's deficit plan is very simple," said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass. "One, prolong the default crisis. Two, push the nation to the very brink of economic collapse. Three, repeat it all again and again, until Election Day 2012."

Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, has said the Boehner bill "could well produce the greatest increase in poverty and hardship produced by any law in modern history."

Meanwhile, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said Thursday the so-called Gang of Six in the Senate was waiting for both the Reid and Boehner plans to fail so they can draft their own proposal.

"Speaker Boehner's plan may or may not pass the House. I assume it will, Conrad told Fox News Channel. "But it will fail in the Senate. Senator Reid has a plan … but I think it's likely that at this moment that won't get cloture, won't get 60 votes."

Reid, speaking shortly after the House rules vote, said if the bill reaches the Senate "it will be defeated."

"No Democrat will vote for a short-term Band-Aid approach. Economists have said that a short-term arrangement holds many of the same risks as a technical default. … Our economy and the financial markets desperately need stability. Speaker Boehner's bill does not provide either," Reid said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Thursday he believes a compromise will be achieved.

"We continue to believe and remain optimistic that Congress will come to its senses, that cooler heads will prevail," Carney said. "It really isn't that complicated at this point. What we need to do is get beyond voting on dead-on-arrival measures that aren't going to become law when we have so few days left to reach a compromise. … We believe that's going to happen. …

"There are a lot of ways to get to compromise here and that is what the American people, I think, really want us to do is to compromise, not stick it to anybody, not score political victories and see who can be blamed for the economic damage that would be done by the fight here," Carney said.

Fourteen top bank and other executives -- members of the Financial Services Forum -- Thursday sent a letter to the White House and Congress demanding action this week.

"The consequences of inaction -- for our economy, the already struggling job market, the financial circumstances of American businesses and families, and for America's global economic leadership -- would be very grave," the bankers warned.

"Our economic recovery remains very fragile. A default on our nation's obligations, or a downgrade of America's credit rating, would be a tremendous blow to business and investor confidence -- raising interest rates for everyone who borrows, undermining the value of the dollar, and roiling stock and bond markets -- and, therefore, dramatically worsening our Nation's already difficult economic circumstances."

Efforts to corral GOP caucus votes Wednesday included Boehner telling Republican colleagues to "get your ass in line" behind his measure that would grant President Obama a limited increase in the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.

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