Is it now fair to say the Boehner plan was a waste of time? 

Throughout the week, House Speaker John Boehner’s plan to raise the debt limit was attacked on two fronts. Democrats said he was wasting time on a plan that had no chance of passing the Senate, while conservatives argued that pushing the plan was undermining Cut, Cap and Balance. By deciding to add a Balanced Budget Amendment to his own plan this morning to gain enough votes to secure passage, Boehner proved both sets of critics correct.

The main selling point for the Boehner plan, if there was one, was that whatever the Senate Democratic opposition, it at least was within the general ballpark of something that had a reasonable chance of becoming law. And there was the hope that if his plan passed, Democrats might fold. But the addition of the new BBA takes this selling point away.

As Rep. John Campbell, R-Calif., explained it to reporters this morning as he was leaving this morning’s Republican caucus, the revised Boehner plan would make a second debt limit hike contingent upon a BBA getting sent to the states – something that would require the votes of every Republican, as well as roughly 50 House Democrats and 20 Democratic Senators. The Boehner plan does not specify which version of the BBA would have to pass (i.e. whether the language would require a supermajority for tax increases). Given that Democratic leadership and Obama have opposed both a BBA and breaking the debt limit increase into two parts, this is arguably even more of a non-starter than Cut, Cap and Balance.

Given these developments – i.e. that Boehner will end up with a bill that’s totally infeasible anyway -- conservative critics may have a point that had Boehner waited for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D- Nev., to release his plan, and then entered the inevitable negotiations using Cut, Cap, and Balance as the starting point, the eventual deal may have been better.

With the BBA addition, the new Boehner plan is assured passage in the House and immediate rejection in the Senate. Cut, Cap and Balance served the same purpose.  So all that will have been accomplished is that he wasted a work week of unveiling the plan, drafting it into legislative language, getting it scored by the CBO and then revised and scored again, putting it on the House floor, debating it, delaying the vote, trying in vain to arm-twist hold outs, and then ending up with a watered down Cut, Cap and Balance anyway.

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Philip Klein

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