With White House negotiations on hiatus, Republicans in Congress are pushing their own plan to raise the debt ceiling: "Cut, Cap, and Balance." Under the plan, which is moving directly from the conservative Republican Study Committee to the House floor, the debt ceiling could be raised only if both houses of Congress agree to $5.8 trillion in unspecified cuts over 10 years. The plan also pushes for a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution that would limit spending in a way that would make it all but impossible to raise taxes. President Obama said he will veto the bill in the unlikely event it passes the House and Senate. Where does that leave us? Here, four predictions:
1. The vote will be a fig leaf for the GOP, and "a trap" for Democrats
House Republicans will pass their plan, and it will die in the Senate, but that's exactly what the GOP wants, says Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo. Republican leaders would never let the party's "most radical fiscal policy" in years pass if they thought they had to live with the draconian budget-slashing. But forcing a vote on their "perfect alignment of popular sounding policies" will allow them to "sucker punch vulnerable Democrats" in 2012, and give Republicans political cover when they vote for a "more modest plan" later.
2. The GOP will rue this bit of political theater
The GOP's balanced-budget amendment "has zero chance of becoming law," and its failure will leave the party "clinging to a no más Senate compromise" with some cuts but zero leverage for future reforms, says David Brooks in The New York Times. For this, the GOP walked away from a serious White House compromise that would have slashed trillions in spending, shown independent voters the GOP is ready to lead, and "brutally fractured" the Democrats. "Republicans will come to regret this missed opportunity."
3. "Cut, Cap, and Balance" won't even make it out of the House
This series of votes will be both a show of strength by Tea Party–aligned House freshmen, and proof of their ultimate weakness, says Jay Newton-Small at TIME. House conservatives foiled any hopes of a grand compromise, and their "extreme" alternatives are testament to the fact that they "have the loudest voice in the debate." But in the end, both the balanced budget amendment and "Cut, Cap, and Balance" will probably "fail in both chambers."
4. House Republicans are serious, and we will default
Even if "Cut, Cap, and Balance" passes the House, it probably won't make it past the Senate. And "there's at least a possibility that literally no solution can assemble 218 votes in the House," says Steve Benen at Washington Monthly. In that case, we're headed for default city. "I'm still holding out hope" that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), "and other grown-ups will get a reasonable deal done and avoid crisis for both the country and the party," says James Joyner at Outside the Beltway. "But it's no longer a certainty."