Can the House scuttle the Senate budget and debt deal?
Senators McConnell and Reid are apparently very close to an agreement that would raise the debt ceiling into early February, fund the government through late January, and establish a super-committee of sorts to hash out budget and fiscal issues like tax and entitlement reform.
There are easily 60 votes for the plan in the Senate so the question becomes, will House Republicans derail the compromise and send the country into near uncharted waters of a default?
There will be enormous pressure on Speaker Boehner to bring the Senate bill to the floor even if more than half the GOP caucus opposes it. If that happens, it seems pretty clear that Boehner will need almost all the Democrats in the House to vote with him to pass the bill.
Are the Democrats of a mind to be charitable?
Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.), a member of Republican leadership, didn't seem comfortable with the Senate package. Asked if there was anything he likes, Lankford said "not that I've seen so far." Moments later, Lankford was huddling with Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on the House floor.
"That's a long time, that's a lot of dollars," Lankford said of the debt ceiling hike. "I'm going to have to see, is that a date certain? Is that give them the time to be able to reload all the extraordinary measures, so it's really a debt ceiling increase to May or June?"
The buzz in the Republican cloakroom and on the floor was that the House was being asked to vote for a clean debt limit and continuing resolution - in short, the concessions won by McConnell were not victories at all. One House Republican said they would be lucky to find 20 GOP lawmakers willing to vote for this proposal.
Time is running short: The U.S. government's borrowing authority runs out Thursday.
Boehner, Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will test the waters Tuesday morning in a House Republican Conference meeting. Aides say Boehner will spend most of the time gauging the reaction of his lawmakers.
As always, Boehner is playing his cards close to his chest. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) called Boehner on Monday evening , and the speaker would not give a hint of what his plans were, Democratic lawmakers said.
That's the big question: What does Boehner do for the next day or two while the Senate tries to pass this bill. Boehner could pass his own six-week debt ceiling increase - first floated last week - but he would have to find 217 of his own lawmakers to get it through the chamber. Plus, not many Republicans will want to sign onto a bill that is dead on arrival in the Senate. If he puts this Senate proposal on the floor as its being described now, Boehner would need at least half of the 232 House Republicans to back it in order to avoid internal calamity.
It really doesn't sound promising - especially since there's a large slice of the Republican caucus who believes that default is no big deal, that with money coming in, the Treasury Department can prioritize payments in order to pay off bondholders as well as pay entitlements. Treasury swears they can't do that because they send out 100 million checks a month and couldn't reprogram the computers in time.
I guess we're about to find out who's right.