In the House, a likely struggle for 216 votes

House leaders in both parties have their work cut out if they hope to pass a debt-ceiling package being finalized by the White House and Senate Republicans.

Although the details of the agreement are still emerging, early reports indicate it includes contentious provisions sure to alienate both conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats.

{mosads}If both the left and right flanks of the lower chamber unite in opposition, it would fall to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to forge a more centrist, bipartisan coalition to get the bill across the finish line – just as they did to cobble together support for the unpopular Wall Street bailout in 2008.

It won’t be easy.

Boehner, for instance, will have to convince his troops to swallow a deficit-reduction strategy without direct ties to a balanced-budget amendment, a non-starter with many conservative members. Last week, Boehner tried to push such a bill through the lower chamber, but despite a commanding majority, GOP leaders couldn’t marshal Republican support to pass the bill.

Even with the addition of the constitutional amendment provision, the bill squeaked by with just two votes to spare. Twenty-two Republicans opposed their leadership’s bill.

“I need to see the bill mandate a balanced-budget amendment immediately,” Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said, explaining his “no” vote.

Democratic leaders face the threat of a similar insurrection. Although they were surprisingly successful rallying their caucus behind a debt-limit bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-Nev.), many liberal members have warned that their support was merely political and is no indication of how they would vote next time around.

The liberals had hammered the Reid plan for its steep cuts in domestic spending and the absence of new revenues – provisions that reportedly remain in the deal being finalized by President Obama and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

“The Reid plan is the outer depths of hell, but still hell,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said. “I voted for it to strengthen Reid’s hand so it doesn’t get worse, but it doesn’t mean I’ll vote for it in the end.”

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D) also held her nose to support the Reid bill. But the California liberal also warned that she would oppose any plan that moves further to the right.

“I cannot vote for anything worse,” she said.

Nadler told MSNBC Saturday that 80 percent of House Democrats feel the same way.

Citing the imbalance between spending cuts and tax revenue increases,
liberal groups are already pressuring Democrats to kill the alleged

“Seeing a Democratic president take taxing the rich off the table and
instead push a deal that will lead to Social Security, Medicare, and
Medicaid benefit cuts is like entering a bizarre parallel universe —
one with horrific consequences for middle-class families,” Stephanie
Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said
Sunday in a statement. “The middle class has sacrificed enough. We need
jobs, not cuts, to get the economy moving again.”

McConnell on Sunday indicated the he and the White House are “very close” to sealing a deal to slash deficit spending by up to $3 trillion over 10 years and raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit.

To sweeten the deal for Republicans, Obama has reportedly offered to exclude specific tax-revenue hikes, at least in the near term. To entice Democrats, McConnell is eying a provision allowing Obama to hike the debt-ceiling through 2012 in order to preclude another debate on the thorny issue before next year’s elections.

The Senate voted largely along party lines on Sunday afternoon to block Reid’s proposal to raise the debt limit by $2.4 trillion.

Democratic senators are waiting for Reid to call a special caucus meeting with senior administration officials to hear about the status of negotiations with GOP leaders.

The Treasury Department has warned that without additional borrowing authority, it will be unable to pay all of the country’s obligations after Tuesday.

Tags Boehner John Boehner Mitch McConnell Tim Scott

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