Boehner proposal includes vote on balanced-budget amendment

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will propose that House Republicans agree to raise the debt ceiling by up to $1 trillion while conditioning a future increase on enactment of a deficit reduction plan and a congressional vote on a balanced budget amendment.

The two-step plan, detailed by a GOP aide, is likely to fall short of what President Obama and Democratic leaders have demanded because it does not raise the debt ceiling through 2012.

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The Boehner plan would save $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years and raise the debt ceiling by $1 trillion immediately. The proposal caps discretionary spending and provides a mechanism to automatically cut spending if those caps are breached.

The plan requires the House and Senate to vote on a balanced budget amendment after Oct. 1 but before the end of the year, “allowing the American people time to build sufficient support for this popular reform,” an aide said.

The plan would allow for a second hike to the debt ceiling by creating a joint committee of Congress to outline $1.8 trillion in deficit cuts.

The proposal would require an up-or-down vote in Congress of the committee’s legislation, and it would allow the president to request $1.6 trillion in added borrowing once it is enacted.

The move sets up a collision course with Senate Democrats, who are unveiling their own debt ceiling proposal that would go through 2012 while including budget savings of $2.7 trillion over 10 years.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said his bill would meet the GOP’s long-held conditions for raising the debt ceiling by including deeper spending cuts than new debt authority and by forgoing tax increases.

Reid is expected to offer more details of his plan later on Monday.

Senior GOP aides also appeared nervous about selling the Boehner plan to the GOP caucus and deferred any question about whether they can get 218 GOP votes in the House for it.



In a sign of possible trouble, Heritage Action, a conservative group, immediately pooh-poohed the plan.


"Based on preliminary reports, we are skeptical this proposal rises to the occasion," Heritage Action’s CEO Michael Needham said.

GOP aides did express confidence that the Reid plan will not be able to get 60 votes in the Senate and that by the end of the week, the Boehner plan will be the only game in town.

The Reid plan also is expected to include $1 trillion in savings from the end of the Iraq and Afghanistan warns. The Boehner plan does not include those savings.

A House aide said that a Wednesday vote is still planned for the Boehner plan. Given the Aug. 2 deadline set by Treasury to approve a hike to the debt ceiling, GOP aides predicted it would be very difficult for the Senate to reject it.

President Obama has called for a larger hike to the debt ceiling to ensure another vote would not be necessary until after the 2012 elections.

Boehner’s office argues the Speaker’s plan, to be presented to the full House Republican caucus at a 2 p.m. meeting, meets the core standards of the “Cut, Cap and Balance” measure approved by the House last week.

The measure does so, a GOP aide said, by imposing spending cuts larger than the hike to the debt ceiling; by implementing spending caps to restrain future spending; and by “advancing the cause of the Balanced Budget Amendment.”

The bill, whose text will be made public before midnight on Monday, does not require a specific balanced budget amendment, but House Republicans favor a version that would require a two-thirds vote in each chamber to raise taxes.

The joint committee proposal would receive expedited consideration in each chamber if a majority of the 12 members votes to advance the plan. It would have to issue a plan by Nov. 23.

The committee will have 3 members appointed each by the Speaker, House minority leader, Senate majority leader and Senate minority leader. It would have jurisdiction to consider entitlement reforms and tax increases as well as further discretionary spending cuts.

A GOP aide guaranteed that Boehner would not appoint any members of the committee who would support a tax increase.

If the joint committee plan passes, the president would be “authorized to request a debt limit increase of $1.6 trillion,” according to an aide.

If the committee fails to move forward a proposal or if it is blocked by Congress, it would be up to lawmakers whether to again raise the debt ceiling.

As a result, the same debt ceiling standoff now occurring would reemerge, aides said.

This story was updated at 2:33 p.m.