By Alexander Bolton - 08/01/11 06:34 PM EDT
Senate liberals and conservatives on Monday blasted a bipartisan deal to raise the debt limit, but sources say a greater number of colleagues want to pass it and avert a national default.
Lawmakers and aides say the bill will easily pass the Senate, where it is scheduled for a vote at noon on Tuessday. If there’s any drama, it will play out in the House, they say.
“There’s some enthusiasm for the legislation, some — on the other side — not so enthusiastic,” Reid said after meeting with the Democratic Caucus. “This legislation is typical for compromise legislation. Neither side got what they wanted, but it’s the essence of compromise.”
Vice President Biden attended the special caucus meeting to give what one participant called “a very sincere and direct explanation of many months of negotiations” and how the deal came about.
Reid said he hoped to pass the bill, which would raise the debt limit by $2.1 trillion to $2.4 trillion, “very quickly.”
A Democratic aide said the House was expected, as of early afternoon, to vote on the plan at 6 p.m. Monday. Reid will attempt to lock in a unanimous consent agreement to vote Monday evening or Tuesday morning.
Senate conservatives and Tea Party members say they will oppose the legislation, but add that they have no plans to slow down floor proceedings to derail it in the upper chamber.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), a member of the Tea Party Caucus, said he wanted to ensure that he and his colleagues would have enough time to carefully read the bill, but would not wage an all-out filibuster.
DeMint’s home-state colleague, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), will oppose the deal because it could slate the Pentagon for $600 billion in cuts after next year.
But the concerns over defense spending are not enough to push most GOP senators to vote no.
Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he was concerned about defense spending reductions but would still support the deal.
“Am I concerned about defense cuts? Obviously. But I will strongly support this agreement,” McCain said.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), a member of the Tea Party Caucus, said he expected the deal would pass the Senate.
Sen. Richard Burr (N.C.), a member of the Senate Republican whip team, predicted it would pass with ease.
“We won’t have any problem passing this,” he said.
Sen. Jim Webb (Va.), the former secretary of the Navy and a member of the Armed Services Committee, said the defense cuts would not affect his support.
“When the leadership of both parties can come together and find a way to move forward, it’s time to move forward,” Webb said.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), an influential member of the Democratic Caucus, said her colleagues have misgivings about various elements of the package but do not want to risk economic fallout by opposing it.
“It’s a compromise and it’s hard, it’s a very hard compromise for people, but we recognize — I think, a majority of us — that the alternative is calamitous and the alternative can very well push a real recession,” said Feinstein. “I think this becomes a settlement of necessity rather than a settlement of favor.
Liberals said they were disappointed that the deal would cut spending by more than $2 trillion but not raise taxes for the wealthy or corporations.
“I think at the end of the day that there is deep disappointment among the American people that a time when the rich are becoming much richer and corporations are making billions in profits and not paying a nickel in taxes that deficit reduction is taking place on the backs of children, the elderly, the sick in the poor,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), an independent who caucuses with Democrats. “I’m certainly not going to vote for it.”
Sanders, however, did not signal any plan to object to speeding up floor proceedings to allow Congress to pass the deal by the Aug. 2 deadline.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) also said he would vote against the deal.
“These Republicans are robbing Peter and Paul, not just Peter to pay for Paul,” he said.
He said cuts to domestic discretionary spending will hurt “people who are really in a position where mercy is required,” such as poor families who rely on federal assistance for home heating in the winter and who depend on the Head Start to give their children quality early education.