Reid to Start Debt Bill Process by Friday Night

Posted July 29, 2011 at 9:43am

Updatd: 1:34 p.m.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Friday that he will take action on approving a debt ceiling compromise Friday, beginning the procedural process on a bill that he hopes will avert government default by the Treasury Department’s Tuesday deadline.

Reid intends to file a motion to limit debate, or beat back an anticipated filibuster, Friday night on either his plan, which would cut $2.5 trillion over the next 10 years, or on any House-passed measure that he would amend with his proposal. The announcement came just hours after a late-night session in which Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) postponed a vote on his own alternative because he lacked the Republican backing to approve it. House leaders expect to vote on their revised bill Friday afternoon or evening.

Whether it moves as a stand-alone Senate measure or as a volley back to the House, Democratic aides say the Senate Majority Leader plans to either move his bill as it stands or potentially file the motion, known as cloture, on an altered version that would include changes recommended by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Tweaking the measure would be an attempt to pick up the Republican votes necessary to proceed with the bill.

“By the end of the day today, I must take action on the Senate’s compromise legislation,” Reid said on the floor Friday. “Although the House of Representatives has not yet voted on Speaker Boehner’s plan, it is clear that plan flawed. That is why they have struggled for days to pass this flawed legislation without a single Democrat. They have plowed forward, looking only to Republicans.”

By filing cloture Friday, Reid sets up a potential 1 a.m. vote Sunday on his bill, which he called “the last train leaving the station” and “our last chance to avert default.”

If the leaders cannot agree to shorten the time-consuming procedural maneuvers, or if any Member decides to filibuster, the full Senate process would then set up a second vote at 7:30 a.m. Monday, with final passage from that chamber on Tuesday, aides said.

However, Reid actually would prefer to use a House-passed measure as the vehicle for his proposal because he would be able to save a day procedurally. Unlike with a Senate-originating bill, Reid could skip a time-consuming procedural step if he has the House bill in hand.

Senate Democrats were slated to caucus Friday at 10 a.m., while on the other side of the Capitol, House Republicans were expected to meet to whip the last few votes necessary to pass their proposal later Friday. The House GOP has not set a time for the vote on a potentially amended bill, but leaders insisted it would occur Friday.

Reid also made a public plea to McConnell to continue negotiating with him.

“I have invited Sen. McConnell to sit down with me and to negotiate in good faith, knowing the clock is running down. I hope he will accept my offer,” Reid said. “I know the Senate compromise bill Democrats have offered is not perfect in Republican’ eyes. Nor is it perfect for Democrats.”

Reid will need Republican votes to send any package back to the House because overcoming a filibuster, or invoking cloture, requires 60 votes. If the Senate is able to pass a bill with bipartisan support, Boehner will also likely need Democratic votes to send a final agreement to President Barack Obama’s desk.