Arm Twisting Begins Again

House Republican leaders “delayed a white-knuckle vote Thursday evening on legislation designed to ease the nation’s debt crisis, and they began hauling wavering lawmakers into private offices in an apparent scramble to lock down the last votes needed for passage,” the Washington Post reports.

New York Times: “Immediately after the vote’s delay, Republican members could be seen streaming in and out of the Speaker’s office as Mr. Boehner continued to work to win their support for the legislation.”

NPR: “It should go without saying, this is a signal setback for the speaker, who in recent days had pleaded, cajoled and demanded that his conference get behind him if, for no other reason, to show solidarity as he confronts the Democrats who control the Senate and the White House.”

Does Boehner Have the Votes?

Think Progress says 25 House Republicans have now come out against House Speaker John Boehner’s debt ceiling plan. He can afford to lose no more than 23 of his members assuming no Democrat supports the bill.

The Hill and National Journal have 22 House Republicans voting against.

Meanwhile, Roll Call reports House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi predicts Republicans “will not win with Democratic votes.”

Update: The Washington Post reports the House vote has been postponed as GOP leaders scramble to find support.

Payback for Defying Boehner

Rep. Jim Jordan’s (R-OH) open defiance of House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) debt ceiling plan could cost him his safe seat in next year’s election.

Republican sources “deeply involved” in configuring new Ohio congressional districts confirmed to the Columbus Dispatch “that Jordan’s disloyalty to Boehner has put him in jeopardy of being zeroed out of a district.”

“Breaking up and parsing out Jordan’s 4th district and throwing him into a new one that is competitive would solve a dilemma for GOP congressional map-drawers who, due to population shifts, must reduce the number of Ohio congressional districts from 18 to 16 before the Feb. 8 candidate filing deadline for the May 3 primary election.”

Obama Loses Ground in Re-Election Bid

A new Pew Research survey finds the sizeable lead President Obama once held over a generic Republican opponent — 11 points in May after the death of Osama bin Laden — has vanished. Just 41% of registered voters say they would like to see Obama reelected, while 40% say they would prefer to see a Republican win in 2012.

That said, there is no greater clarity to the Republican nomination race. Just 24% have given much thought to their 2012 options.

Overall in the GOP race, Mitt Romney continues to hold a significant lead among Republican voters with 21%, followed by Rick Perry at 12%, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann at 11%, Ron Paul at 9% and Herman Cain at 8% No other candidate receives more than 3% of the support of Republican-oriented voters.


Perry Clarifies Views on Gay Marriage

In an interview with Tony Perkins, Texas Gov. Rick Perry walked back his support of states like New York passing laws allowing gay marriage.

Said Perry: “I probably needed to add a few words after that ‘it’s fine with me,’ and that it’s fine with me that a state is using their sovereign rights to decide an issue. Obviously gay marriage is not fine with me. My stance hasn’t changed.”

Reid Vows to Vote Down Boehner Bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said the U.S. Senate will consider House Speaker John Boehner’s bill to raise the federal debt ceiling immediately after its anticipated House passage, National Journal reports.

Said Reid: “As soon as the House completes its vote tonight, the Senate will move to take up that bill. It will be defeated. No Democrat will vote for a short-term Band-Aid that would put our economy at risk and put the nation back in this untenable situation a few short months from now.”

Suzy Khimm: “Once Reid kills the bill, there are two new paths he could take: He could bring his own plan up for a vote or he could try to come up with a compromise plan with Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. His plan is certain to fail in the House, so wasting time passing it through the Senate would be, well, wasting time.”

Bonus Quote of the Day

“When I ask whether there is room for a full-throated, unapologetic fiscal conservative to get into this race, the answer has come back almost 100 percent, ‘Yes, there is’.”

— Texas Gov. Rick Perry, in an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader.

House Headed for Dramatic Evening Vote

National Journal reports the House of Representatives will vote on Speaker John Boehner’s debt plan sometime after the financial markets close, likely between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.

According to Politico, Boehner acknowledged to his colleagues this morning, “We do not have the votes yet.”

Boehner can only afford to have 23 Republicans vote against the bill and a Think Progress whip count finds that 23 have already said they would vote against it.

Making False Rumors Work

Ed Rendell admits that he has “often let the media report stories that I knew were incorrect” and “I did it for Machiavellian reasons. I always had an ulterior motive. In fact, sometimes we actually started the false rumors.”

An example: “Fast forward to 2010 and Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s chief of staff was reported to be leaving to run for mayor of Chicago. There was immediate speculation in some parts of the media that I would be a good replacement and was under serious consideration. I did nothing to dispel the rumor even though I knew President Obama and his key advisers would rather walk over hot coals than have me as chief of staff. In fact, I had never been contacted by anyone in the White House (not even the janitor). But I let the speculations continue. Why? Because to have media heavyweights like Jonathan Capehart, Margaret Carlson, Chris Matthews, Politico.com, the Washington Post and the New York Times talking about me as a potential chief of staff to the president could only increase my national stature, giving me more leverage to impact the issues I care about. And it did, big time.”

GOP Freshman Sued for Child Support

The Chicago Sun-Times has a lengthy report on freshman Rep. Joe Walsh’s (R-IL) court battle over child support with his ex-wife Laura Walsh, who claims that he owes over $100,000 in back child support and interest.

“The thickness of the court file reflects Laura Walsh’s nine years of trying to collect child support and expenses from a man who crusades against compromise. Laura Walsh went to court repeatedly over the past nine years to get him to pay up, sometimes even asking the court to garnish his wages, court records show. In 2004, Laura Walsh complained in a motion that despite her ex-husband’s claims of poverty, he took a vacation to Mexico with his girlfriend and another to Italy. The following year, he complained in a court filing that his ex-wife mailed him a motion while she knew he was in Nicaragua doing charitable work with one of their children.”

Romney Absent from Debt Ceiling Debate

Mitt Romney has avoided taking a position on the various debt ceiling proposals before Congress, but his silence is curious now that Republicans are placing their bets on House Speaker John Boehner’s plan.

First Read: “Our question: How does someone who wants to be the leader of the Republican Party not have a position on one of the biggest issues facing Washington, especially after the dueling primetime speeches by Obama and Boehner? It’s actually quite surprising; this isn’t just another Washington fight. Is the lack of a position proof of how fragile Team Romney believes its front-runner status is right now?”

Ben Smith: “Romney has done a sterling job of navigating a range of political risks, and of avoiding the usual political trap of getting pulled too far toward the base during a primary, and being unable to swing back to the center. But I wonder if he’s been as successful in avoiding a kind of character trap that Democrats are setting for him, and whose outlines are already clear: That he’s too weak and calculating to lead.”

Cashing in on the Debt Crisis

As the country barrels towards default and politicians in Washington continue to stare each other down, Politico highlights one point of agreement: using the debt ceiling crisis to “fill their campaign coffers and help their like-minded allies.”

“The fundraising pitches also point to the larger problem infecting Washington — the tone of the messages are sharply partisan, and campaign donors often don’t want their lawmakers to compromise, a dynamic that plays into the stalemate facing Congress as it tries to avoid an economy-shaking default next week… Senate Republicans are hosting nearly 20 fundraisers this week, according to an NRSC fundraising list. House Democrats also have a plethora of events, hosting 44 fundraisers this weeks… Special interest groups have also gotten in on the fundraising action amid the debt fight.”

Democrats in Retreat

First Read observes that when you “take a step back from the hour-by-hour movements in this debate, it’s obvious how much ground the White House and Democrats have conceded.”

“First, they retreated on their push for a clean debt-ceiling raise. Then they retreated on the size of the spending cuts (now both sides say the cuts must equal or exceed the eventual debt-limit hike). Then they backed away from insisting that tax revenues be included in the final package (both the Boehner and Reid plans exclude them). And now it seems that their final line in the sand is insisting that the debt ceiling must — in one step — be raised beyond 2012, versus Boehner’s two-step approach, which would guarantee another debt showdown early next year.”

“Bottom line: It looks like they’ve gotten their clocks cleaned in these negotiations, and Republicans are once again counting on Democrats to retreat. The one thing that could bail out Democrats: that the GOP doesn’t know when to declare victory and walk away from the blackjack table.”

A Referendum on Boehner

The Hill notes today’s vote on House Speaker John Boehner’s debt ceiling proposal is, without question, “the biggest vote of Boehner’s reign. Some are even speculating that Boehner’s Speakership is on the line.”

“If Boehner can convince his colleagues to back his bill, he will gain significant leverage in the debt-limit talks. If it’s voted down, there will be questions about whether he can remain an effective leader of the House GOP Conference.”

Meanwhile, Politico notes the Republican leadership is feeling “as if it quelled an uprising on the right after struggling to line up votes for much of the week.”

The Debt Crisis is Much Worse Than You Think

Bloomberg Businessweek: “Even the $4 trillion ‘grand bargain’ on debt reduction hammered out by President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) — a deal that collapsed nearly as quickly as it came together — would not have gotten the U.S. where it needs to be. A June analysis by the Congressional Budget Office concluded that keeping the U.S.’s ratio of debt to gross domestic product at current levels until the year 2085 (to avoid scaring off investors) would require spending cuts, tax hikes, or a combination of both equal to 8.3 percent of GDP each year for the next 75 years, vs. the most likely (i.e. ‘alternative’) scenario. That translates to $15 trillion over the next decade — or more than three times what Obama and Boehner were considering.”

Quote of the Day

“It’s Congress that does the spending. The president is prohibited to do that. If he had the power to do that he would effectively be a dictator.”

— Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), quoted by CNN, on whether President Obama might raise the debt ceiling by executive order, using the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution as justification.

Democrats Will Get Their Turn When Bush Tax Cuts Expire

Because of a political dynamic “that lends itself to a ransom,” Ezra Klein says Democrats will ultimately lose the fight on the debt ceiling because they can’t allow the government to default.

But their negotiating leverage will be reversed when the Bush tax cuts expire just before the end of President Obama’s current term.

“This scenario is the inverse of the current debt-ceiling debate, in which inaction will lead to an outcome — a government default — that Democrats can’t stomach and Republicans think they can… Next year’s deadline on the Bush tax cuts offers Democrats their only chance to negotiate from a superior strategic position. Republicans will still be able to refuse to raise taxes. But if they do, it won’t matter.”

Which Bills Will the Government Pay First?

If there is no clear movement on raising the nation’s debt ceiling by tomorrow, ABC News reports that administration officials “will likely brief the public on how the Treasury Department will try to handle the bills Congress mandates that the government pay given a situation where Congress has not given them a way to do so.”

New York Times: “The outlines of the answer, however, already are clear. Officials have said repeatedly that Treasury does not have the legal authority to pay bills based on political, moral or economic considerations. It cannot, for instance, set aside invoices from weapons companies to preserve money for children’s programs. The implication is that the government will need to pay bills in the order that they come due.”

The briefing should come no earlier than Friday after the markets close at 4 p.m. ET.

Growing Support for Rival Plans

House Republicans and Senate Democrats gained substantial support “within party ranks for their separate plans to resolve a looming debt crisis, but the momentum seemed to be pushing both sides further from a compromise,” the New York Times reports.

“It was a day in which Capitol Hill seemed to operate in alternate realities: Republicans in the House sharing near universal belief that the Senate will eventually cave and accept their plan, and Senate Democrats assured that they will have the last word over the weekend and ultimately force the hand of the House.”

The Wall Street Journal notes the House was headed for a cliffhanger vote today on Speaker John Boehner’s revised plan “that could go a long way in determining if the government’s borrowing limit is raised in time to avoid a possible default next week.”

National Journal whip count finds 18 House Republicans likely voting against the bill. Boehner can’t lose more than 23 GOP votes if no Democrats support the bill. The Hill finds 22 Republicans likely voting against the bill.

Roll Call: “If Boehner’s bill passes today, Reid will have to decide whether to try to vote it down symbolically or to amend it and send it back to the House for final passage. If Boehner falls short of the 217 votes needed to pass his plan, Senate Democrats will likely start the formal process of moving on their bill and hope it passes their chamber.”

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