SGH Report: US Fiscal: "Hope Springs Eternal"

Published on February 11, 2014

So quipped House Speaker John Boehner when asked about the prospects for House passage of “The Temporary Debt Limit Extension Act” that included two conditions to reverse a cut in military pensions and another one year “doc fix” to Medicare payments to doctors.

But within an hour this morning Boehner was already announcing the inevitable, that he would abandon the painfully negotiated debt ceiling bill and switch to a “clean” bill that will be drafted and posted later today. It will also suspend the ceiling on federal debt until March 15, 2015.

The new bill will be rushed through another Rules Committee vote to clear the way for a floor vote as scheduled for Wednesday morning. It is expected to easily pass with overwhelming Democratic support. That, in turn, may mean Boehner may only manage to gather 100 to 120 Republican votes since the high expectation of a large Democratic turn-out frees up Republicans for a politically convenient no vote.

On the face of it, it marks another blow to Boehner and the House Republican leadership. Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan is understood to have strongly opposed the bill as drafted last night since it reversed the hard fought, very modest trims to military pensions that was included in the Ryan-Murray budget agreement last year. That said, Boehner is said to have felt he needed to first exhaust all the alternative versions of a debt ceiling bill with conditions attached before ever being able to pass a clean debt bill with a solid majority of Republicans voting in favor.

With a House passage on Wednesday, the Senate should be able to pass the bill on Thursday before they break for their own recess, assuming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid can win a unanimous consent to proceed to a floor vote without debate. That seems likely, as the Republicans have exhausted themselves on another debt ceiling fight.

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