Senate, House Far Apart On Debt Ceiling Deal

Lawmakers in the House passed the Cut, Cap and Balance Act Tuesday. The measure conditions a higher debt ceiling on a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. The largely symbolic vote was seen as a chance for the most conservative elements of the Republican majority to flex their muscles and show their commitment to a "no new taxes solution" to the federal deficit issue.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

Mary Louise Kelly, host:

OK, as we heard there, while the Senate is focused on this so-called Gang of Six plan, the House was focused on a very different bill yesterday.

For closer look how the two chambers might find common ground, we're joined by NPR congressional correspondent Andrea Seabrook.

Hi, Andrea.

ANDREA SEABROOK: Good morning.

KELLY: So talk to me about this bill that the House passed yesterday. It does not look likely to go anywhere. The president has already said he would consider vetoing it. Why is the House spending time, at this crucial hour, on this bill? They call it the Cut Cap and Balance.

SEABROOK: You know, Mary Louise, it's actually kind of a great metaphor for what's going on in Congress in general. I mean the Republicans brought the bill to the House floor after writing it among themselves with no consultation with Democrats or the Senate. So rather than it being like a real, viable plan for getting control of the deficits and debt, it became a type of treatise on what Republicans would do if they controlled everything. But they don't, and that's sort of the partisan problem that Congress has had, especially in divided government.

It was politically important, though, in one way. It gave the GOP, especially that huge class of brand new Republicans that identifies with the Tea Party, it gave them something to vote for when they've been against almost every other plan.

KELLY: Well, and as you talk to lawmakers in the House, do they sound open to considering this other plan that seems to be gaining some traction in the Senate, The Gang of Six Plan?

SEABROOK: It does seem like, as David just said, that very few of them have completely dismissed the plan out of hand. Now that is good news for the negotiators, because so many other plans have been dismissed out of hand.

So far though, this new idea has gotten kind of a tepid result from the leaders. Certainly all of their ears perk up at the idea of hearing of lowering tax rates on corporations and individuals, but every leader who has spoken so far and who I've spoken to, have warned that they have not seen the details yet and they need to see that.

KELLY: You know, on the Senate side, we heard there about Senator Coburn's return to the talks - Republican Senator Tom Coburn - returning to the talks, and that that may be seen as a maybe a sign that some conservatives have taken their side to stand and now maybe they are ready to bargain. Do you see lawmakers in the House, perhaps, following that path?

SEABROOK: Well, I think, you know, what it looks like is that House Republicans, especially the leadership, got scared a little bit by the back the fallback plan that came about, which essentially would hand the keys of, you know, raising the debt limit over to the president with a few sort of show votes saying we don't want him to do this, but allowing him to do it themselves. That's the sort of deep backup plan that there is in effect right now.

And I think that Republican House leaders see that as so toxic that they are now willing to go ahead and look at a deal. And like I said, the power of saying we're ready to lower tax rates on individuals and businesses is that's pretty powerful among Republicans.

KELLY: Now meanwhile though, there are still some in the Republican Party, including some of the presidential candidates out on the campaign trail, who continue to oppose any plan that involves raising the debt ceiling. They're still not budging. Is that right?

SEABROOK: Yeah, and you know what, they're probably not likely to budge. The one other thing in the plan that is that could be seductive to people like them is this idea of getting rid of some small part of President Obama's health care law. There is that is being tossed about in the plan right now.

KELLY: The Gang of Six Plan we're talking, now, in the Senate.

SEABROOK: Exactly, in The Gang of Six Plan, and that is attractive to some of those candidates as well. It'll be interesting to see if this sort of this plan becomes something that just barely ekes by the House with 218 votes, or if it's something that can actually gain the broad support of a coalition across the country. And if it does, then it's possible that some of those Republican presidential hopefuls could climb onboard.

KELLY: All right. Thanks so much, Andrea.

SEABROOK: My pleasure.

KELLY: That's NPR Congressional correspondent Andrea Seabrook.

(Soundbite of music)

KELLY: And this is MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.