By Molly K. Hooper and Russell Berman - 07/15/11 02:00 PM EDT
House Republican leaders have thrown their support behind the "Cut, Cap and Balance" plan that conservatives are demanding in return for an increase in the federal debt ceiling.
According to lawmakers who attended an 8 a.m. meeting of the Republican conference, GOP House members rallied Friday behind an effort to cut spending, cap spending in future years and pass a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution — a package that has been pushed in the House by the Republican Study Committee.
“We asked the president to lead, we asked him to put forward a plan, not a speech — a real plan — and he hasn’t. We will,” Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said after the meeting.
Leaders intend to offer the plan later Friday in order to tee up a vote for the middle of next week.
“I don’t want to preclude any chance of coming to an agreement,” he said. Boehner demanded that Obama put forth a "real" plan with spending cuts and entitlement reforms.
One lawmaker told The Hill that the proposal is the GOP's response to President Obama's challenge — issued at Thursday evening's negotiations at the White House — to come up with an answer to the current impasse over raising the borrowing limit.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Republicans are looking for a permanent change in Washington's spending habits.
“We want to change the system here. We want to be able to go home to the people who elected us and show them that we are not going to allow this kind of spending to continue,” Cantor said.
“So we are going to bring a bill forward next week otherwise known as the 'Cut, Cap and Balance' bill to provide a balanced approach so we can demonstrate that we are getting things under control, that the people who put us here can gain some confidence that we are going to begin to live like they do around their kitchen tables and their businesses," Cantor said.
The plan would authorize a $2.4 trillion increase in the debt ceiling after Congress passes a balanced-budget amendment.
According to a summary shown to The Hill, the plan would cut $111 billion in fiscal 2012 and cap spending at 18 percent of gross domestic product by 2021. The $2.4 trillion increase in the debt ceiling would satisfy the president’s demand that the additional borrowing authority carry the nation through the 2012 elections.
The move will allow the GOP to say it has acted to increase the debt ceiling and prevent a default, even if the plan is one that is likely to be rejected by Democrats and the White House.
“We’re once again trying to provide the leadership that the American people sent us here to provide,” Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) said.
The maneuvering in the House comes as leaders in the Senate craft a last-ditch plan to raise the debt ceiling before the Aug. 2 deadline set by the Treasury Department.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (R-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are working with the White House on the plan, which would give Obama the power to raise the debt ceiling three times unless Congress blocks him.
Asked Friday whether House Republicans could support the McConnell-Reid plan emerging in the Senate, Boehner said it's premature to say.
“We are far from the times for a last-ditch effort,” he said.
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), the third-ranking Republican, slowly shook his head in the background as Boehner was asked about the fall-back plan.
McCarthy later predicted to The Hill that the "Cut, Cap and Balance" package would pass with "really strong Republican support."
Asked how many votes he would lose, McCarthy replied: "I never talk about vote counts. First rule of 'Fight Club': You don't talk about 'Fight Club'!"
Cantor told the closed-door meeting of the House GOP conference that the "Cut, Cap and Balance" package would be introduced next week, when the House is scheduled to vote on a balanced-budget amendment, Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) told The Hill. The bill is a version sponsored by Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) and Reid Ribble (R-Wis.).
On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) signed on to a companion version of the measure offered in the Senate last week.
The balanced-budget amendment needs a two-thirds vote in each chamber and cannot pass without at least 48 Democrats in the House. It is much more stringent than a balanced-budget amendment from the 1990s in that it caps spending at 18 percent of GDP and requires a two-thirds vote to raise taxes.
Erik Wasson contributed to this report.
— Last updated at 1:27 p.m.