WEDNESDAY'S BIG STORY:
Senate's turn on debt limit: After the House passed a bill on Tuesday to raise the debt ceiling, all eyes turned to the Senate as the threat of a major winter storm looms for Washington in the next day or so.
The Senate could clear the bill on Wednesday — if the upper chamber can muster the votes needed to squash a potential GOP filibuster.
The legislation passed by the House would extend the nation's debt ceiling through March 15, 2015, and would allow the Treasury Department to issue new debt totaling hundreds of billions of dollars above the current $17.2 trillion limit.
After several different attempts to convince House conservatives to back a bill and reach the 218-vote threshold, Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerFreedom Caucus leader: Despite changes, healthcare bill doesn't have the votes Debt ceiling returns, creating new headache for GOP Letters: Congress, raise the debt limit now MORE (R-Ohio) finally decided he would roll with the "clean" bill, which needed a majority of Democrats to get through on a 221-201 vote.
Only two Democrats opposed the measure, and only 28 Republicans supported it, including BoehnerJohn BoehnerFreedom Caucus leader: Despite changes, healthcare bill doesn't have the votes Debt ceiling returns, creating new headache for GOP Letters: Congress, raise the debt limit now MORE and Majority Leader Eric CantorEric CantorPaul replaces Cruz as GOP agitator GOP shifting on immigration Breitbart’s influence grows inside White House MORE (R-Va.).
Meanwhile, uncertainty reigned in the Senate.
Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzWith no emerging leaders, no clear message, Democrats flounder Trump defends several unsubstantiated claims in interview Budowsky: Trump’s war against truth MORE (R-Texas) said he will filibuster the bill but signaled he could allow a Wednesday vote.
"Any vote on the debt ceiling has to be subject to a 60-vote threshold," Cruz said. "Under no circumstances will I consent to a 50-vote threshold."
Other Senate Republicans seemed disappointed with the House's measure.
"I'd prefer to get something for it," Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin HatchOvernight Finance: US preps cases linking North Korea to Fed heist | GOP chair says Dodd-Frank a 2017 priority | Chamber pushes lawmakers on Trump's trade pick | Labor nominee faces Senate US Chamber urges quick vote on USTR nominee Lighthizer Live coverage: Day three of Supreme Court nominee hearing MORE (R-Utah) said. "This is not going the way I would like it to."
To make matters trickier, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) distanced himself from the House plan, which was blasted by Tea Party groups.
McConnell said Republicans would have to discuss how to move forward once the House bill crosses the Capitol.
So, now, we'll have to see if Senate Democrats can pick up the five votes needed to defeat a filibuster on the bill and move to a vote before the storm hits.
“It looks to me like we’ll find out in the next couple of days how this will be handled in the Senate,” McConnell said.
MBA Mortgage Index: The Mortgage Bankers Association releases its weekly report on mortgage application volume.
Treasury Budget: The Treasury Department releases its January budget data, which is used mostly by the market for year-over-year changes in receipts and outlays.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— Dem, Tea Party members team up to help unemployed find work
— Labor officials quash regs for family farms
— Asia-Pacific trade talks set to resume Feb. 22
— Panel votes to block IRS regulations
— McConnell bill prevents IRS ‘harassment’ of political groups
— Job openings, hiring fell in December
— Rep. Petri: Need for gas tax hike 'resonates'
— Yellen stays the course on stimulus exit
— Court rules IRS can't regulate tax preparers
— A new era for debt talks?
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