Mark Wilson/Getty Images
House Speaker John Boehner makes a point at a news conference as Majority Leader Eric Cantor listens, July 22, 2011.
House Speaker John Boehner makes a point at a news conference as Majority Leader Eric Cantor listens, July 22, 2011. Mark Wilson/Getty Images
It was a foregone conclusion that the Democratic-controlled Senate would kill the Republican-run House's "Cut, Cap and Balance" legislation.
And so it happened according to the script policymakers are now playing by on the debt-ceiling debate.
The only surprise was that the death blow by a party line 51-46 vote came before the weekend began. Earlier in the week it was thought the bill would survive at least until Saturday. But Senate Democrats decided to accelerate the execution.
The GOP bill would have raised the U.S. debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion, averting a historic default.
But it would have required deep spending cuts, including reductions in entitlements that Democrats found unacceptable, and a balanced budget amendment.
Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader and Nevada Democrat, had nothing good to say about the House bill before the vote to table it was taken:
"This is one of the worst pieces of legislation to be brought to the floor of the U.S. Senate. It violates the spirit of our Constitution and certainly what we're trying to accomplish here in Washington. And we as a Senate refuse to waste even one more day on this piece of legislation. We have 11 days left before the United States simply stops paying its bills. And frankly we've wasted too much time already on this."
Disagreeing with Reid, again in keeping with the script of this drama, was Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and Senate minority leader:
"The solution to this crisis is not complicated. If you're spending more money than you're taking in, you need to spend less money. This isn't rocket science. We could solve this problem this morning if the Democrats would let us vote on "Cut Cap and Balance and join us in backing this legislation that Republicans support.
"But the first step in solving a problem is to admit you have one, and too many Democrats refuse to admit that Washington has a spending problem."
In a brief appearance before journalists Friday before the Senate vote to table their legislation, House Republican leaders indicated that "Cap, Cut and Balance" was their answer to the current crisis and they didn't seem particularly willing to offer another.
After the Senate vote, Speaker John Boehner spoke on the House floor to criticize the Senate and to reiterate, as he and fellow Republicans had in the earlier news conference, that the next move was up to Senate Democrats and President Obama:
"The House has acted. We passed a bill that raised the debt limit, cuts spending, puts in place real reforms in place, and requires Congress send to the states a Balanced Budget Amendment. It's called 'cut, cap, and balance.'
"We've done our job. The Democrats who run Washington have done nothing. They can't stop spending the American people's money. They won't and they refuse.
"The Senate Majority Leader says they still won't offer a plan to cut spending. Or a plan to raise the debt limit. Frankly, that's irresponsible.
"Mr. Speaker, where is their plan?
"President Obama talks about being 'the adult in the room.' But where is his plan to cut spending and raise the debt limit?
"We're in the fourth quarter – and we're fighting for jobs, we're fighting for the future, we're fighting for the American people."
While the sides were fighting in public, it was understood that Obama and Boehner were still meeting privately as they tried to reach an agreement to raise the debt ceiling and achieve significant spending cuts and deficit reductions, a pact that could get enough support from lawmakers in both parties to get past the objections of their hardest hard liners.