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House GOP Steams Ahead With Conservative Plan

The House on Wednesday will vote on a conservative debt reduction plan to cut more than $110 billion from the fiscal 2012 budget while making any increase in the debt limit contingent on Senate passage of a balanced budget amendment.

Over the past few days, GOP leaders have begun to embrace the Cut, Cap and Balance plan that has been pushed by Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (Ohio) and outside activists.

With bipartisan talks with the White House over a debt limit increase moving in fits and starts, Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) decided to move forward with the conservative plan that they hope will demonstrate to voters that Republicans take the issue seriously.

The bill will “provide a balanced approach so that we can demonstrate that we are getting things under control and that the people who put us here can gain some confidence that we are living like they do,” Cantor said Friday morning.

“Listen, we’re in the fourth quarter here,” Boehner said. “I think it is time for the Democrats to get serious as well. We asked the president to lead. We asked the president to put forward a plan. Not a speech, a real plan. He hasn’t, but we will.”

Boehner discussed the decision during a morning meeting of the GOP Conference. According to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), one of the authors of the Cut, Cap and Balance plan, the House will vote Wednesday on legislation with “$111 billion in cuts in fiscal year 2012, which is consistent with the House-passed budget.”

Chaffetz also said the plan includes conservatives’ demand that any debt ceiling increase be contingent on a balanced budget amendment being sent to the states by Congress.

Boehner seemed to leave himself wiggle room to drop that trigger.

“The Cut, Cap and Balance plan that the House will vote on next is a solid plan for moving forward. Let’s get through that vote and then we’ll make decisions on what will come after it,” Boehner said Friday.

“I think it’s a good plan, I think it’s important. The president is saying, ‘Put plans out there.’ This is another,” said House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, who dismissed complaints that the plan isn’t going anywhere in the Senate.

“You don’t know until you try, and you’ve got to put out what you believe is the right thing to do, put it on the floor and try to get the votes. And we’ll find out what happens,” the Wisconsin Republican said.

Jordan said, “The leader made an announcement that they’re going to bring it up, so we’re excited about it.”

On the plans’ prospects in the Senate, he added: “No one said anything of significance is ever easy, so we understand that. But tell me what part of that plan isn’t common sense? What part of that plan the American people don’t like?”

Rep. Charlie Dent, who chairs the Tuesday Group Caucus, said he was behind the strategy put forth by leadership but thinks that a contingency plan needs to come together as the Aug. 2 default deadline draws closer.

“My fear is the balanced budget amendment won’t pass in both chambers, and then what? And then where’d we be?” the Pennsylvania Republican said. “We’d be on to the next plan, and so we need to look at what that alternative will be, and the House will have to pass another bill.”

Boehner also left open the door to a deal with President Barack Obama but kept up a partisan front.

“I don’t want to preclude any chance of coming to an agreement. But they’ve been unwilling to put a real plan on the table. And without serious spending cuts, without real reform of our entitlement programs, this problem is not going to be solved,” Boehner said.

He also refused to fully endorse Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) plan to allow Obama to increase the debt limit several times over the next year. McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) are firming up that proposal.

“I’m not prepared at this point to pick winners or losers,” Boehner said. “Listen, Sen. McConnell pointed out his plan was being put on the table as a last-ditch effort. We’re far from the time for a last-ditch effort.”

Jessica Brady and Daniel Newhauser contributed to this report.

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