Supporters will pull Bowles-Simpson plan if prospects are dim

A lead House sponsor of the Bowles-Simpson deficit-reduction plan says he promised the architects of the proposal that the House wouldn’t “embarrass their brand” when the measure comes up for a floor vote on Wednesday.

Reps. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) and Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) are offering the plan, which would reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over a decade, as an alternative budget to be voted on by the full House.

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The vote comes nearly 16 months after Erskine Bowles, a Democratic former White House chief of staff, and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) first unveiled it as the product of President Obama’s deficit-reduction commission.

House passage of the plan on Wednesday would be a shock, but supporters are trying to cobble together a “respectable number” of votes from members of both parties, LaTourette said Tuesday. An especially poor showing could represent a significant setback for the push for a “grand bargain” on deficit reduction, and LaTourette acknowledged that he might call off the vote if it looked like that would happen.

“We’re working very hard to come up with a respectable number,” he said. “I still have hopes that this is going to catch fire, and some Kumbaya moment will break out on the floor and everybody will decide that they want to solve America’s problem. But I have promised both Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson that we’re not going to embarrass their brand tomorrow. And so if I feel like it’s the proverbial fart in church, we’ll probably make an adjustment.”

More than 100 House members last summer signed onto a letter calling for a broad deficit deal that includes a combination of spending cuts, entitlement reforms and revenue increases. Yet LaTourette would not say how many votes he would consider a victory on Wednesday.

The most closely watched bloc will be Republicans, most of whom have signed a pledge not to vote for bills that constitute a net increase in revenues. The Bowles-Simpson plan lowers individual and corporate tax rates, but it would increase revenues by $1.2 trillion over 10 years.