House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) expressed confidence Thursday that his plan to raise the nation's debt ceiling and reduce the deficit would pass the US House of Representatives.
"After today the House will have sent to the Senate not one but two different bills that would that will reign in spending, increase the debt ceiling and bring an end to this crisis," Boehner said during a Capitol Hill news conference with other members of House Republican leadership.
Last week, the Republican-controlled House passed the so-called "Cut, Cap and Balance" bill with the support of five Democrats. All five have announced that they will vote against Boehner's revised plan.
Boehner did not specifically address the issue of whether he had the necessary 216 votes to pass the legislation, but House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) suggested that Republicans who had expressed opposition to the legislation were now coming around.
"You all know I don't talk about the votes," McCarthy told reporters when asked if Republicans had the votes to pass the measure through the lower chamber. "This Conference has moved a great deal in a short amount of time."
Soon after the press conference, the House voted 238-186 to approve a procedural hurdle guaranteeing a vote on Boehner's plan. Approval of the so-called "rule" guarantees two hours of general debate on the bill and then a final vote, expected to be held in the early evening, after the US stock market closes.
"The bill's not perfect, I never said it was perfect, nobody in my caucus believes it is perfect," Boehner told reporters, but he added that it was the best path forward for the country ahead of a looming Aug. 2 deadline.
"Let's pass this bill and end this crisis," he said.
Boehner's bill would raise the nation's $14.29 trillion debt ceiling by $900 billion in exchange for $917 billion in spending cuts over 10 years as the first part of a two-step process. The bill authorizes an additional $1.6 trillion debt limit increase in the spring if Congress adopts a plan to cut the deficit by more than that amount.
The White House and Democrats in both chambers have objected to the plan, insisting that any agreement must raise the debt ceiling through the November 2012 elections.
The House Speaker needs to muster 216 votes for the bill to pass the House, meaning he can only afford to lose the support of 24 of 240 Republican members. According to an informal tally by The Hill, 22 Republicans have either said they will not vote for the bill or are leaning against supporting it.
Conservative Republican lawmakers came out against the bill earlier this week, saying it did not cut spending enough. But House Republican leaders seemed to be making gains in their effort to rally their caucus to support the plan.
During a meeting of Republican lawmakers Thursday, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), who had been considered a "no" vote for Boehner's bill, held up a University of Notre Dame sign reading, "Play Like a Champion Today!"
"Let's go knock the sh*t out of them," he yelled to cheers from Republicans, The Hill reported.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday that the Senate would immediately vote on the bill following the House vote, adding that it will be defeated by the upper chamber.
"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," Reid said on the Senate floor.
It was unclear whether Reid would be able to muster the 60 votes necessary to pass his own piece of legislation through the Senate. His plan, supported by the White House, calls for a one-time increase of the debt ceiling though 2012 along with $2.2 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years.
White House press secretary Jay Carney reiterated the Obama administration's call for compromise on a debt limit plan Thursday, saying he saw no evidence of compromise in Boehner's bill.
"There is no question that this bill is a political act that has no life beyond its current existence in the House," Carney told reporters at the daily press briefing.
On Thursday leaders from several top banks including Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan Chase wrote a letter to the president and leaders on Capitol Hill warning of the grave consequences of a default.
"A default on our nation's obligations, or a downgrade of America's credit rating, would be a tremendous blow to business and investor confidence -- raising interest rates for everyone who borrows, undermining the value of the Dollar, and roiling stock and bond markets -- and, therefore, dramatically worsening our Nation's already difficult economic circumstances," they wrote.
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