Debt Showdown: End Game Approaches Without Clear Solution

By Eliza

Jul 28, 2011 10:48pm

ap obama boehner debt showdown jp 110725 wb Debt Showdown: End Game Approaches Without Clear Solution

Orginial Post at 5:15 pm ET. Updated at 10:50 pm ET.

ABC News' Jonathan Karl (@jonkarl) reports:

It has come to this. Both Democrats and Republicans are about to play a game you might call “My Way or the Highway to Economic Collapse.”

House Republicans still plan to vote at some point on the Boehner bill (a $900B, six month, debt-ceiling increase).  John “Get Your Ass In Line” Boehner may get his 217 votes to pass the bill, but he is not there yet. It will be a close vote. Republican leaders' plans were thrown a major setback Thursday night when it became clear they did not have the votes to pass Boehner's bill and delayed the vote rather than seeing it go down to defeat.

That vote was initially expected to occur at 6 p.m. ET, but was postponed late Thursday afternoon and eventually scuttled for the day. The delay suggested Republicans did not have the votes to pass their plan and they were scrambling to pressure wavering Republicans on board.

By nearly 10 p.m. Thursday evening, a whip notice had gone out to all Republican House members.

"Thank you for your patience," the notice read. "We hope to reach a decision soon on the schedule for the rest of night. Members are advised to stay nearby as we still expect to vote later tonight. Please stay tuned to future updates for more accurate timing. I will relay any new information I have as soon as possible. Again – Thank you for your patience."

Shortly before 10:30 p.m., however, the vote was off. House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., announced to gathered reporters on the Hill there will be "no vote tonight."

House Democratic leaders have said no Democrat will vote for the Boehner bill.

Even if the gavel comes down – then what?

Assuming the Boehner bill eventually passes, the Senate will move swiftly to reject it (or, in Senate-speak to “table” it). IMPORTANT:  Tabling a bill is not the same as killing it.  It can be brought up again at a later time.

At that point, the Senate will take up the Reid bill (supported by the President, it raises the debt ceiling by $2.7T, until 2013).   He’ll offer Republicans one last chance – a window of just a matter of hours – to negotiate slight changes.

But Republicans say the Reid bill cannot get the 60 need to pass.   They are counting on it failing, forcing the Democrats – under the threat of default and facing market turmoil – to once again take up the Boehner bill and pass it as the only way to avoid economic chaos.

As Republicans see it:  The Boehner bill will be the last train leaving the station.  The Senate must pass it or default.

But …

Democrats plan to put the Republicans right against the wall using the very same tactic.  They will do this by holding the vote on the competing bill authored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (which would raise the debt ceiling until 2013) on Sunday or Monday – at which point it will be too late to go back to the Boehner bill or do anything else.

“At that point,” says one key Democrat, “they will be forced to make a choice:  vote for the Reid bill or vote for default.”

BOTTOM LINE:   Both sides are now prepared to use the threat of economic turmoil – a possible global downturn – to force the other side to go along with their plan.  And both sides say they are absolutely confident the other side will give in.

ABC's John R. Parkinson and Sunlen Miller contributed to this report.

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