John Boehner is about ready to discover whether Barack Obama was bluffing when he said he would veto a short term debt limit deal.
House Republicans are finishing work on a new proposal to resolve the standoff over the debt ceiling. The proposal, set to be finished and crafted into the form of a bill by Sunday, will be in two parts. The first will combine a short-term increase in the debt ceiling with spending cuts. The second will lay the groundwork for a longer-term increase in the debt ceiling coupled with far-reaching deficit reduction.
"Senator Reid said on Friday that he is going to wait for us to move," says a well-informed GOP House aide. "So we'll move." Another well-informed aide confirmed the basic outline of what's happening.
Staff of the House Rules Committee is involved in the work, which is an indication that the process is nearing completion. Before any bill can be considered on the House floor, the Rules Committee must first pass a rule setting out the process for its consideration. Once the proposal is finished, it would likely be posted on the Rules Committee website, probably no later than Monday, so the committee could meet to consider it on Tuesday and it could be on the House floor by Wednesday.
What's significant is that the president is out - marginalized and placed on the sidelines. This is a congressional play now and it is largely going to be up to Harry Reid whether this moves forward to passage.
Then it's Obama's turn. He will be under enormous pressure to sign it since the looming deadline means there's no more time for serious negotiations. If he signs, he shows himself to be a cardboard cutout of a president by not keeping his word to veto. If he vetoes, the entire onus for the debt ceiling fiasco falls on his shoulders.
Reid won't go along unless there are some revenue increases. What will House Republicans accept? That's what Boehner is finding out today and tomorrow. I imagine anything they can include that won't be called a "tax increase" will be on the table. It's probably doable if some of the tea party members cooperate. They are probably going to want some kind of commitment to entitlement cuts down the road. That may take a lot of convincing by Boehner.
Right now, I'd put passage of this two step plan at 55-45 - no more than that. It has a better chance than anything else but is still very iffy.