Dueling Debt Ceiling Designs: Still Far From Compromise

Jul 29, 2011 6:42pm

ABC’s Sarah Parnass reports:

As two separate plans to solve the debt limit crisis work their way through the legislative process, and Republicans and Democrats continue to resist a bipartisan compromise, lawmakers on both sides are wondering whether the congressional leadership will find common ground to avert a financial crisis next week.

Although the plans, one proposed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the other by House Speaker John Boehner, are criticized by each opposing party’s ideological bases, one House Republican suggests the two sides aren’t as far apart as it may seem.

Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said that if Reid’s bill, like Boehner’s revised plan, required the passage of a balanced budget constitutional amendment it would offer a true compromise that could satisfy both sides. Flake predicted that would put Democrats in a “political bind.”

“There’s not that much difference between the Reid bill and the Boehner bill. I’d take the Reid bill in its entirety – attach a balanced budget amendment. Force ‘em to say, ‘all right, the only thing we object to is a generic plain, balanced budget amendment,” Flake said. “I’d love to see that.”

Flake was a holdout on Boehner’s plan until Friday morning, when House Republicans decided to add a balanced budget amendment provision to the bill.

Once it was announced that such a measure would be added to Speaker Boehner’s plan, Flake joined his party’s ranks in supporting the bill, along with several other Republicans.

House Democrat Robert Andrews of New Jersey, however, said that in addition to his own ideological opposition to a balanced budget amendment, he doubted such a bill’s ability to pass in the Senate.

“That’s like saying, ‘we’ll extend the debt ceiling if I can play, you know, center field for the Yankees,’” Andrews said. “It isn’t happening, I wish it were, but it isn’t happening.”

Friday afternoon, a few hours before the House was set to vote on Boehner’s revised plan, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was not yet willing to consider that kind of hypothetical compromise.

“We are not at the point right now that we’re negotiating any other thing other than the bill we’ve got on the floor,” Cantor, R-Va., said when asked if he could support the Reid plan if it included a balanced budget amendment requirement.

Cantor pointed out that while the House of Representatives has already approved one bill in the form of Cut, Cap and Balance, and is in the process of passing another today, the Senate has not yet passed a plan.

“It’s time for the majority leader of the Senate to live up to what he’s said that he doesn’t want to bring on economic collapse and the consequences of going past Aug. 2,” Cantor told ABC News Friday afternoon. “Let’s see some action on the part of the Senate.”

The House is scheduled to vote on Boehner’s plan for the debt ceiling this evening at approximately 6:00 p.m. Democrats have threatened that should such a measure pass the House, it would be “dead on arrival” in the Senate.

ABC's John Parkinson contributed to this report.

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