House GOP leaders whipping debt-limit bill headed for death in Senate

House Republican leaders are whipping a bill to raise the debt limit and impose a slew of conservative reforms, but Senate Democrats say it will die in the upper chamber.

The measure would direct committees to come up with $3.8 trillion in spending cuts across a range of areas, freeze new federal regulations until July 2017 and change the Senate’s filibuster rules. It raises the debt limit by $1.5 trillion, to $19.6 trillion.

{mosads}It’s Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) opening serve in a ping-pong match between the House and Senate that will take place over the next two weeks, ahead of the Nov. 3 deadline to raise the debt ceiling.

Republican sources say the tough offer is designed to placate House conservatives and pave the way for a second proposal that is more likely to win 60 votes in the Senate.

The second debt-limit bill is likely to originate in the House as well, though Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have yet to set the timetable, according to a source close to the GOP leadership.

The conservative-tilted bill Boehner is now pushing, which was drafted by Republican Study Committee (RSC) Chairman Bill Flores (R-Texas), may not even have enough votes to pass the House.

Flores said Boehner told lawmakers Wednesday morning that he wants to move his bill as the vehicle to extend the nation’s borrowing authority, but “it’ll depend [on] if we get enough votes to do that.”

“We’ve got 170, and it takes 218, so that’s the obstacle,” he said, referring to the membership of the RSC and the number needed to pass legislation in the House.

Boehner also told colleagues he will move legislation sponsored by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) that would require the administration to prioritize debt payments to avoid a default in case Congress fails to raise the ceiling by Nov. 3.

House lawmakers are reviewing the bill, with some moderates suggesting alternatives.

“There are plenty of ideas out there. One is the bill we voted on two weeks ago requiring that the judgments that American citizens have against the Islamic Republic [of Iran] be paid,” said Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.).

The House earlier this month passed legislation blocking President Obama from lifting sanctions on Iran until its government pays damages owed to U.S. victims of terrorism.

Even if Flores’s bill to raise the debt limit and find $3.8 trillion in cuts passes the House, it faces stiff opposition in the Senate.

Senate Democratic leaders said Wednesday they would filibuster it.

“House Republicans have floated two plans that are nothing more than default and economic collapse by another name. I want to be crystal clear up front — both the prioritization bill the House is considering today and the Republican Study Committee’s proposal are dead on arrival in the Senate,” Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the third-ranking member of the Democratic leadership, told reporters in a conference call.

Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, who joined the call with Schumer, warned that McClintock’s plan to prioritize debt payments is “probably not feasible to do with accuracy and precision in ways that avoid financial chaos.”

Senate Republicans raised concerns about the House decision to attach rules reform to debt-limit legislation. The bill crafted by Flores would bar senators from filibustering the motion to proceed to spending bills after Oct. 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

That provision alone is certain to doom the legislation in the Senate.

“The mere fact that the House is now rewriting the Senate rules, that would be a real obstacle to a lot of people we know very well,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.).

“How is the House changing the Senate rule?” asked Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), a freshman who has called for a review of Senate rules. “To change the rules of the Senate requires 67 votes in the Senate.”

“They’re going to change Senate rules with the debt ceiling, that’s interesting,” said another GOP senator, who requested anonymity to comment on the House proposal. “I cannot imagine the Senate is going to go along with a bill where the House changes the rules of the Senate.”

“I don’t know how you change Senate rule with a bill,” said a Senate GOP leadership aide.

McConnell hasn’t given his GOP colleagues any hint of what the backup plan is if a House-passed debt-limit bill crashes in the Senate.

“I don’t know where this will end, I really don’t. I’m very concerned about it,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Republican senators discussed various strategies at a lunch meeting Wednesday for moving debt-limit legislation over the next week and a half.

Several are floating the idea of attaching regulatory reform to the measure.

Two Republican senators said they would like to attach a proposal that blocks the administration’s Waters of the United States rule, which the GOP argues gives the federal government overly broad jurisdiction to enforce the Clean Water Act.

Vicki Needham contributed. 

Tags Bill Flores John Boehner Mike Fitzpatrick Mitch McConnell Tom McClintock

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