Two short hours after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a reworked version of House Speaker John Boehner’s debt limit package in a vote of 218-210 on Friday afternoon, the Senate killed it in a 59-41 vote, and the nation continued to edge toward a possible default on Aug. 2.
After a 24-hour delay and concessions to the more-conservative Republicans in the House, the Boehner bill was passed in a vote that had a pronounced partisan flavor; no Democrats supported it. It then headed to the Democrat-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid followed through on his vow to defeat it, the New York Times reports.
Senate Democrats immediately began to move ahead on their own proposal. Reid asked Republicans to put forward any ideas on how to make that proposal acceptable enough to win Senate passage and help to end the debt-ceiling crisis, according to the New York Times:
“My door is open,” Mr. Reid said as the Senate convened. “I will listen to any idea to get this done in a way that prevents a default and a dangerous downgrade to America’s credit rating. Time is short, and too much is at stake, to waste even one more minute.”
Boehner's debt ceiling plan would have seen the country’s borrowing limit raised by up to $900 billion along with $917 billion trimmed from the U.S. budget deficit over 10 years. This would cover about of six months of borrowing for the U.S.
The bill would have also required Congress to send a constitutional balanced budget amendment to the states for ratification before a second increase in borrowing authority is allowed. This provision was inserted at the last minute to win over conservative Republicans demanding greater cuts in federal spending before agreeing to vote for the bill, according to Fox News.
Originally scheduled for Thursday night, the vote was delayed to Friday when Republican leaders failed to win sufficient support from more conservative members of the party. The plan faced its fiercest resistance from Tea Party supporters, who oppose any raising of the debt ceiling, and Thursday's delay followed heated floor debate and arm-twisting late into the night as Boehner met individually with Republican members.
In the end, there were 22 Republicans who were unwilling to back Boehner's efforts to get a bill approved, The New York Times says.
The White House called the vote a “political exercise.”
Most Democrats are opposed to the deep cuts to public spending.
Reid is planning to introduce his own debt ceiling proposal in the Senate late Friday evening, leading to a series of procedural votes over the weekend and a final vote that may not occur until midday on Tuesday, Reuters reports.
The Democrats said they are prepared for the Senate Republicans to filibuster their debt limit increase bill, The New York Times reports. If that happens, they will require Republicans to object to the bill’s passage, extending the proceedings late into the night and making for some unflattering television coverage for Republicans.
“It’s hard to imagine the Senate Republicans would actually filibuster the nation into default,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York.
But there may be some movement toward a compromise, according to the New York Times:
Many members of the Senate are hoping Mr. Reid and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, can strike an agreement that can attract members of both parties to approve a measure that could be sent back to the House. Some Republicans began to encourage a compromise, with a spokeswoman for Senator Scott Brown, Republican of Massachusetts, saying he could back “a Republican bill, or a Democrat bill — it doesn’t matter” as long as it cuts spending, does not raise taxes and avoids default.
U.S. President Barack Obama said earlier Friday that Democrats and Republicans must compromise to cut the budget deficit and raise the U.S. debt limit.
(More from GlobalPost: Obama's warning: "We're almost out of time" on debt plan)
But time is running out: the U.S. Treasury has warned the government that it will default on its debt unless a $14.3 trillion borrowing limit is increased by Aug. 2.