By Molly K. Hooper - 07/15/11 02:00 AM EDT
House Republicans are scheduled to meet early Friday to assess the state of faltering talks about raising federal borrowing.
One lawmaker in the 240-member GOP conference predicted a “long” discussion, as leaders set aside additional time for conservatives to present a stand-alone “Cut, Cap and Balance” measure tying a hike in the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling to passage of a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget.
A similar measure has been sponsored in the upper chamber, which gained the backing of nearly two-dozen conservative senators, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday, an aide confirmed.
House lawmakers also anticipate discussing McConnell’s plan that would allow the debt ceiling to increase by $2.4 trillion, to be released in three successive bundles on which Congress would vote each time.
But with dozens of House Republicans opposed to raising the debt ceiling at all, McConnell’s measure has not picked up much steam among the rank and file.
Meanwhile, Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and sophomore Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told The Hill that they briefed their leadership on the “Cut, Cap, and Balance” measure Wednesday afternoon.
Chaffetz said Thursday that House GOP leaders “have been very open to it, very fair about it — I think they want to get the reaction of the conference. That’s why we’re meeting in the morning.”
Fiscal conservative Reps. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) and Andy Harris (R-Md.) are spearheading the effort with Chaffetz and Jordan.
Chaffetz hopes his effort will gain traction in the conference when he presents it to his colleagues Friday morning. He explained that the House version is slightly different than the companion measure offered last week in the Senate by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).
Both measures would cut current spending, cap annual spending and include a constitutional amendment to balance the budget, but the House proposal would allow for percentage cuts each year.
“We’re looking more at percentages as opposed to exact dollar amounts year by year — it would be up to the future Congresses to determine how they allocate which dollars, where,” Chaffetz explained in a preview of the plan.
Though the House and Senate are set to vote on stand-alone versions of a balanced-budget amendment next week, neither chamber has opted to take up a bill that specifically ties an increase in the debt ceiling to passage of a balanced budget measure.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) was skeptical of any group attempting to produce stand-alone proposals while negotiations continue with the president.
“We can’t have a situation where somebody comes up with a bright idea in a backroom — it would have to be embraced by leadership,” Cole told The Hill. “At the end of the day, little groups of members can’t impose their will on the entire conference. Nobody can impose, that’s a leadership function.”
Chaffetz said the growing list of interested co-sponsors means the lawmakers intend to introduce their measure regardless of leadership endorsement.
“A lot hinges on what happens [Friday morning]. We’ll still be introducing it; where and how it comes up for a vote, we’ll see,” Chaffetz said.