Senate Democrats Look To Negotiate With McConnell If Boehner Bill Fails [UPDATE]
WASHINGTON -- Senate Democrats are expected to quickly kill House Speaker John Boehner's debt ceiling proposal if it passes the House on Thursday evening. But don't expect Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to then suddenly take up his own debt-ceiling package.
A Senate Democratic aide told The Huffington Post that the party will move the Reid bill forward but it won't necessarily file for cloture immediately after Boehner's fails, hoping instead that the defeat of GOP's bill and the prospect of a Treasury default moving closer will compel Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to come to the negotiating table.
The aide would not detail the specifics of what Democrats would offer the Kentucky Republican when he gets to that table. But the general idea is that they would present possible trigger mechanisms that GOP lawmakers may find agreeable.
Currently, Reid's plan calls for roughly $2.2 trillion in savings over the course 10 years, mostly from discretionary spending cuts and savings from the drawdown of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Like Boehner's plan, it would set up a super committee of 12 lawmakers to propose additional cuts, including reforms to entitlement programs. While Boehner's proposal would only authorize a second raising of the debt ceiling if the committee came to a consensus on its debt-reduction recommendations, the Reid plan has no such enforcement device.
Democrats, from the White House on down, have insisted that they will not bend on their demand that a debt-ceiling bill go through the 2012 elections. Instead, Reid seems likely to offer McConnell other triggers. The most discussed proposal, publicly and privately, has been to allow for a vote on the so-called Gang of Six recommendations should the super committee remain deadlocked. Another option would be to enforce additional spending cuts -- and possibly revenue raisers -- on top of those already in the Reid plan.
"We are very open to options," the Democratic aide said. "The goal is to try to get McConnell to buy into this ... There are some things discussed last weekend that Republicans didn't want to go for that we will once again offer them as options. We'll see if they want to reconsider."
UPDATE: 4:03 p.m. -- Don Stewart, a spokesman for Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) emailed The Huffington Post a statement suggesting that the Kentucky Republican was satisfied with his previous stints at the negotiating table and wouldn't be making any more.
"We worked with our Democrat colleagues all weekend and produced a bill—the bill the House will vote on tonight," said McConnell. "It has Sen. Reid’s committee and spending cuts that both Democrats in Congress and the President agreed to."
Meanwhile, a Democratic official familiar with the debt talks elaborated a bit more on the window of potentially agreeable enforcement mechanisms. The trigger, the official relayed, had to be balanced, with either pain or gain for both sides. It also had to be something that didn't have irrevocable damage if it was hit -- which would rule out the possibility of a debt default in six months as a possible enforcement mechanism. Finally, it had to be germane to budget policy, which eliminates another, previous, Republican suggestion: the repeal of the health care law's individual mandate.