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Can Boehner's Debt Ceiling Plan Pass?


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Robert Siegel. At the U.S. Capitol, phone lines and inboxes are filled up with messages from constituents. There has been overwhelming response about the debt ceiling after speeches last night by both President Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner. The president also explicitly called for people to contact their members of Congress.

NORRIS: In a moment, we'll hear from the White House, from one of the president's top economic advisers. First, all eyes in Washington are on the House. Speaker Boehner has pledged to pass his own plan to cut spending and raise the debt ceiling. The question is: Can it pass? NPR's Andrea Seabrook reports.

ANDREA SEABROOK: Now, there are still serious divisions among members of the House Republican conference. Congressman Jim Jordan heads a group of the most conservative members of the House. Today, he seemed to be almost rooting for Boehner's debt ceiling plan to fail.

JIM JORDAN: I am confident as of this morning that there were not 218 Republicans in support of the plan.

SEABROOK: Jordan and a handful of other Republicans say they will not vote for any increase in the country's credit limit unless both chambers pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, one that would force the government to balance its budget every year. Many freshmen Republicans especially are vehemently opposed to raising the debt limit, and they speak of President Obama not so much as a political opponent but as their enemy.

JEFF DUNCAN: We're going to fight you on the beaches. We're going to fight you at the sea. We're going to fight you in the air to make structural changes to the way this place known as Washington, D.C., operates.

SEABROOK: The fact that opposition to the speaker's plan within his own party has gone from a whisper campaign to a public hue and cry may actually be a good sign for Boehner. Washington is sometimes upside-down world where movements for or against a particular bill gather power silently, and it's only when a lawmaker senses he's losing that he takes his argument to the press. For his part, Speaker Boehner, of course, thinks he can get his bill through the House.

JOHN BOEHNER: We're going to have some work to do to get it passed, but I think we can do it.

SEABROOK: And the Republican whip, Kevin McCarthy, the guy in charge of counting GOP votes, had this to say today.

KEVIN MCCARTHY: This is what the American people have been asking for. We look forward to moving this bill off the floor of the House, onto the Senate and to the president's desk.

SEABROOK: Now, things are changing by the minute - like now. Republican leaders are scrambling to make deeper cuts after hearing from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that the bill wouldn't cut as much as they wanted. That puts off the vote by a day. But for now, it appears Boehner has successfully maneuvered the politics of this into a better place for him. Instead of shattering Republican unity by negotiating with Democrats, Boehner has turned the outcome of his bill into a kind of anti-Obama vote. That amps up the pressure on his members to pass it when it comes to the House floor Thursday. Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andrea Seabrook covers Capitol Hill as NPR's Congressional Correspondent.