By Mike Lillis - 07/29/11 08:17 PM EDT
Republicans are deluding themselves – and wasting valuable time – with a debt-limit proposal that has no chance in the Senate, Rep. Steny Hoyer charged Friday.
The Maryland Democrat said the GOP's provision requiring passage of a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution, attached early Friday to entice Republican support, is "totally unreal" and moves the sides even further from a deal to prevent a government default.
"They've made it more unrealistic than it was before simply to get some additional Tea Party votes," he said.
Unable to rally the GOP votes needed to pass their debt-limit package, GOP leaders on Friday tweaked the bill in an effort to lure the support of conservative critics. The proposal would hike the debt ceiling until the beginning of next year, and hinge the subsequent increase on both houses passing a balanced-budget amendment.
The House is likely to pass the measure Friday evening, but Senate Democrats, who were unanimous in their opposition to even a more centrist version, are poised to kill it.
President Obama said Friday that the GOP's plan has “no chance of becoming law.”
Even Republicans concede that Friday's vote is merely symbolic.
"There was a chance that the package yesterday, if it had been successfully voted out, would have been adopted by the Senate and signed by the president. I think everybody acknowledges that’s not going to happen with this piece of legislation,” said Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio).
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is scrambling behind the scenes to come up with an alternative proposal capable of attracting 60 votes in the upper chamber, where some conservatives have vowed to filibuster any increase in the debt ceiling.
They're running out of time. The Treasury Department has warned that its coffers are only full enough to pay all the nation's obligations through Aug 2.
Both chambers will remain in session through the weekend in hopes of reaching a deal, though much of the action is expected to take place behind closed doors in the upper chamber.
"Reid is trying to see what he can get done in the Senate," Hoyer said. "We're waiting to see."