Washington Bureau

10.15.13

Still No Debt Ceiling Deal In DC

Start buying gold, stockpiling guns and getting acquainted with the taste of human flesh—the United States may hit the debt ceiling.

After Tuesday started with a potential deal negotiated by Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell in the Senate, Speaker John Boehner tried to counter with his own proposal out of the House. Boehner's bill would have raised the debt ceiling through early February and reopened the government through December 14. In return, it would prevent the Treasury form taking any "extraordinary measures" to avoid default, implement the Vitter Amendment to prevent congressional staff from getting employer subsdized health care and set the stage for a Christmas fight over contraception

The bill seemed to be derailed once Heritage Action, the powerful right wing organization headed by former Senator Jim DeMint announced it would oppose the bill. Within 15 minutes of that news, a planned meeting of the House Rules Committee to set the terms of the debate was cancelled. Just as it was set to start, Pete Sessions, the chair of the Rules Committee announced the delay, saying members needed more time to call their constitutents to avoid "misunderstanding." Within two hours, Republicans announced they were going home for the day and would try again tomorrow.

This marked a significant change as the Thursday deadline loomed. In the late morning, House Republicans held a two hour meeting Tuesday morning featuring members singing all four verses of 'Amazing Grace' while hashing out their differences. Most members leaving the meeting seemed to be broadly supportive of the leadership's bill, none openly opposed it. But it all fell apart.

The action moves back to the Senate now, where McConnell and Reid are restarting their talks. However, legislative proceedure in the Senate could stall a bill for days if a Senator like Ted Cruz or Mike Lee throws up obstacles. And, even if it passes the Senate, it would still have to make it through the House as well where Boehner on using the "Hastert Rule" and only passing legislation backed the Republican majority. After tonight's breakdown, it's likely that he would need the support of the Democratic caucus to pass any Senate compromise.

On Wednesday morning at 8AM, the New York Stock Exchange will open for its last session before the debt ceiling reached. The market fell by 133 points today and is expected to decline further on Wednesday. If no deal is reached by Thursday, the consquences of hitting the debt ceiling could be economically catastrophic and result in the government defaulting on its debt.