House Postpones Vote On Boehner's Debt Ceiling Bill

The House is postponing the vote on House Speaker John Boehner's debt limit plan. The delay raises questions whether the GOP in the House has the votes to pass the bill. Michele Norris talks to NPR's Andrea Seabrook for more.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host: From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host: And I'm Michele Norris. There's been a major change of plans in the House of Representatives. It was scheduled to vote on Speaker John Boehner's debt ceiling bill but as the House neared the end of a debate, GOP leaders stopped the proceedings and postponed the vote. This could be a hiccup or it could mean that the speaker does not have enough votes in his party to pass his bill. NPR's Andrea Seabrook joins me now from the Capitol. Andrea, what's going on right now?

ANDREA SEABROOK: Well, Michele, not much. The House, as you said, just suddenly stopped debate right near the end of it. So we were all sort of watching, expecting them to turn to the actual votes that were coming up. And it appears that the Republican leadership staff signaled to the administrative staff of the House of Representatives that in fact they wouldn't be going to votes, they were postponing proceedings. And they suddenly turned to a series of completely noncontroversial bills, basically, you know, turning to anything else, you know, to regroup. I mean, this is, Michele, a clear indication that the Republicans don't have the votes or they do not have them yet.

NORRIS: And looking here, it sounds like the GOP is drawing out votes on things like a post office naming bill to give Speaker Boehner enough time to scramble for votes. How is he trying to do that? What kind of arm-twisting is he doing?

SEABROOK: He spent the entire day calling rank and file, bringing them into his office. We know that the Republicans have gotten fairly close. They need 216 of their own votes - that's because there are two people who are out right now, normally it would be 218. We know that they're awfully close. But we also got word today that Democrats had pretty much shored up the Blue Dogs those are the conservative Democrats who, many, many times on bills like this vote with the Republicans. Remember, five Democrats voted for the Republicans' so-called Cut, Cap, and Balance bill last week. We heard from Democrats that those Blue Dogs promised not to vote for this and that may very well be why Boehner is coming up short at this point.

NORRIS: Andrea, do us a favor, remind us briefly what's in Boehner's plan and why he's having trouble getting support from his own party.

SEABROOK: Well, the plan would cut $915 billion over 10 years. That's not as much as many, many Republicans would like. But it is more than the amount that the bill raises the country's credit limit by, which was Boehner's ultimatum. The bill also cuts $22 billion in the first year. There are people who think that could be more. It creates this super-committee that would fast-track legislation to the House and Senate floors. A lot of Republicans don't like that either because they think that could mean more revenue-raisers or tax increases in the future. And, you know, those are the basic problems that Republicans have with the bill. The bill would also force another round of all of this again next year cuts and debt ceiling raisers.

NORRIS: Now, the vote has been postponed, would suggest that they're going to try to do this later. But what happens if the bill dies, if he doesn't get enough votes?

SEABROOK: Yes, and let me say that the speaker's office says that this is a postponement, that they will vote on the bill later today. And the administrative staff, both parties, have been told - stay here, don't go anywhere, we are going to vote on this. These are the same people, though, who have been saying they have the votes already all day, so that makes it questionable. If the bill were to fail, if they were to never go to a vote, it would be a big signal that Boehner never found the votes, and then it's a serious, serious problem for Boehner in the leadership of his own party. If he can't bring up a bill and pass it, then he's got real problems within the party. In terms of the actual bill, though, the Senate was not really going to take this up anyway. So, we go forward with Harry Reid's plan.

NORRIS: Andrea, thank you so much.

SEABROOK: My pleasure.

NORRIS: That's NPR congressional correspondent Andrea Seabrook.

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