- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Facing a growing revolt in their own ranks, House Republican leaders said Tuesday they are rewriting their debt-limit increase bill after the Congressional Budget Office said Speaker John A. Boehner’s plan does not save as much money as he had claimed.

The vote had been scheduled for Wednesday, but CBO’s numbers sent the Republicans scrambling to make changes, fouling up the schedule and pushing Congress ever closer to the Aug. 2 date when the government bumps up against its borrowing limit.

“We’re here to change Washington — no more smoke and mirrors, no more ‘phantom cuts,’ ” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement to reporters. “We promised that we will cut spending more than we increase the debt limit, with no tax hikes, and we will keep that promise.”

The CBO said Mr. Boehner’s reductions in future spending would save only $850 billion over the next decade, which is less than the $900 billion increase in the debt ceiling he is proposing. That discrepancy meant the bill violated his pledge to have cuts exceed the dollar amount of the debt increase.

The delay could also give the party’s leaders time to twist arms among conservative lawmakers, many of whom said Tuesday they cannot vote for the plan, and which one influential lawmaker said is short of the support needed.

“There are not 218 Republicans in support of this plan,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, who heads the powerful conservative caucus in the House and who said he’s voting against the measure.

Democratic leaders said Mr. Boehner was unlikely to get much support from them.

“Very few. I don’t want to give a number on it, but I would think very few,” said the House Democrats’ chief nose counter, Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland.

Whenever it occurs, the vote is shaping up as a key test of Mr. Boehner’s leadership. If successful, it would give momentum to a two-step debt increase that also would ensure votes on a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.

But if unsuccessful, it could give the edge to Senate Democrats’ plan, which immediately would raise the debt limit by $2.7 trillion, reduce future new discretionary spending by $1.2 trillion and create a commission to recommend other budget fixes.

All sides are racing against an Aug. 2 deadline, which is when the Treasury Department says it will bump up against the $14.29 trillion borrowing limit set by law.

Both Mr. Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, have plans, though Mr. Reid is holding off on voting in his chamber until after the House does.

Mr. Boehner said earlier Tuesday that his plan is the only option that can bridge party differences and win enough support to pass Congress by the Aug. 2 deadline.

“We have a bill that is a reasonable approach negotiated with the Senate leadership that really is common sense,” he said. “There’s more cuts in spending than you have an increase in the debt limit. It has real caps and a real process for cutting spending before the end of this year. And it provides for — I think — the best effort to get a balanced-budget amendment enacted into the Constitution.”

Mr. Boehner’s bill would have reduced future discretionary spending by $1.2 trillion, granted an immediate debt increase of $1 trillion and set up a committee to work on trillions of dollars in future deficit reduction through either more spending cuts or tax increases, which would then earn another future debt increase. It also would have required both the House and Senate to hold votes on a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution later this year.

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